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Mississippi’s Ezell, Wicker win Republican primaries easily

Incumbents outspent challengers who questioned their conservative bona fides

Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker won the Republican nomination for a third full term on Tuesday.
Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker won the Republican nomination for a third full term on Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Mike Ezell won Mississippi’s Republican primaries Tuesday after outspending opponents who attacked them over vaccine mandates and other issues that fire up the conservative base. Both had former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

In the Senate race, Wicker had 60 percent of the vote and led retired Marine Corps Col. Ghannon Burton by 40 percentage points, with state Rep. Dan Eubanks running third, when The Associated Press called the race just before 9 p.m. Eastern time. Democrat Ty Pinkins had no challenger in the primary.

Ezell, a freshman who ousted Rep. Steven Palazzo in 2022 by attacking his ethical record, led businessman Carl Boyanton by 52 points, with Army veteran Michael McGill running third, when the AP called the race at 9:20 p.m. Eastern time. Democrat Craig Raybon won his party’s nomination uncontested.

Boyanton, who has put more than $500,000 of his own money into the race, was also one of the six challengers to Palazzo in 2022 and endorsed Ezell after he finished fifth. In ads this year, he accused Ezell of becoming a creature of “the swamp” and violating a promise by voting “16 times” for Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House. He also criticized Ezell for opposing a bill to reinstate pilots who refused to get vaccinated.

In his own ads, Ezell touts Trump’s endorsement and said he’s “fighting against the radical left’s agenda that would take our country down the wrong path.” Ezell’s campaign manager said the incumbent was asked during the 2022 race about supporting other speaker candidates but never said he would definitely oppose McCarthy.

Through Feb. 21, Ezell had spent $641,000 to Boyanton’s $164,000, according to the most recent disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission. But Ezell had less cash in his account than Boyanton going into the campaign’s final weeks, and recent disclosures showed several of his House colleagues making contributions.

In the Senate race, Burton said in one ad that he retired from the military “because of the wokeness Sen. Wicker allowed to infect our military and the vaccine mandates which poisoned our troops.” In another, he said Wicker had “voted against Trump’s border wall” and was responsible for a fentanyl epidemic and child trafficking.

Wicker, a former seven-term House member first elected to the Senate in 2008, had the clear financial advantage with $4.2 million in his campaign account on Feb. 21 even after spending $1.8 million since Jan. 1. Burton’s campaign raised just $133,000, with $28,000 coming from the candidate himself, and had $30,000 left for the final weeks, FEC reports showed. A super PAC created in late February also reported spending $22,000 last week on ads attacking Wicker.

In the state’s three other House districts, Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republicans Michael Guest and Trent Kelly were not opposed in their parties’ primaries. No Democrat ran to challenge Guest in the 3rd District.

Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report.

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