During the October 2010 elections, voters all over the United States helped to ‘clean house’ by removing the Democrats from power in the House of Representatives. Dozens of Democrats found themselves being replaced by Republicans, and among them was Gene Taylor of south Mississippi.
Gene Taylor has held the office for eleven terms despite being a Democrat in a primarily Republican area. His moderate voting record and commitment to the community is what helped to keep him in office all those years, but this time around Taylor’s party association was his undoing.
Taylor was defeated by a newcomer named Steven Palazzo, a retired U.S. Marine and Persian Gulf War veteran. The election was fairly close, with Palazzo capturing 52% of the vote to Taylor’s 47%. Two other independent candidates together made up the 1% difference. When all the votes were tallied, a great many people across south Mississippi were shocked at the results. After more than 20 years of service, someone had finally ousted Taylor from office.
Palazzo ran a series of attack ads in which he showed actual video footage from the U.S. House floor where Taylor voted for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House. Palazzo’s campaign featured the slogan ‘Fire Pelosi’ and his ability to connect Taylor with her was damning. Taylor’s initial campaign basically consisted of him focusing on his previous service, which was quite admirable, but this election proved that it wasn’t enough. That label of ‘Democrat’ next to his name made many of his former supporters turn their backs, as did voters all across the country.
Taylor addressed Palazzo’s attacks by denying some of the allegations, but the damage was done. It didn’t help that Taylor’s campaign commercial featured him in a tight-fitting polo style shirt that still had visible wrinkles from being folded on the shelf at the clothing store from which it was purchased. He looked ridiculous wearing a shirt one size too small, and even worse was the fact that his message just wasn’t strong enough to counter his direct association with Pelosi. He could not deny that he helped put her into power.
In addition to trying to distance himself from Pelosi, Taylor also turned up proof that Palazzo had received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from various insurance interests and representatives. Given all the lawsuits that resulted from homeowners being denied claims after Hurricane Katrina, this put some serious heat on Palazzo’s campaign. However, this election seemed to be more about removing Democrats from office than anything to do with the multi-billion dollar insurance industry.
Now that the Republicans have taken back the U.S. House of Representatives, the next couple of years should be interesting. Palazzo and the rest of his new newly elected lot had best prove that their party can do the better job. Otherwise, Gene Taylor could quite easily take his old job back in the next election.