Tea party candidate Joe Tegerdine of Hattiesburg, who lost the Republican primary for South Mississippi's congressional seat to state Rep. Steven Palazzo, has endorsed incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor in Tuesday's general election.
The endorsement highlights a rift among various South Mississippi tea party groups and leaders in the 4th Congressional District race, some of whom support Palazzo, some Taylor.
"As a legitimately endorsed tea party candidate and solid Republican voter my entire life, many of you may be surprised at my decision to vote for Gene," Tegerdine said in a statement on his campaign website. "I did not make this decision because I agree with all of his positions on the issues. I made this decision based on his record of integrity and willingness to be forthright with the people of our district."
Of Palazzo, Tegerdine said, "I do not want to put our 4th District seat in the hands of a Republican puppet and puppeteers that I do not trust."
The Mississippi Gulf Coast TEA Party and 912/We Surround Them Project in Ocean Springs have endorsed Palazzo.
"We must take back our country and I don't know how else to do it besides changing our representation," said tea party member Ralph Zuleg of Pass Christian in the groups' endorsement statement. "Everything I have heard from Palazzo agrees with my philosophy and, I suspect, the philosophy of all like-minded conservatives."
Both Taylor and a spokesman for Palazzo's campaign said they are pleased by the endorsements they have received. Palazzo could not be reached for comment.
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