BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Who is to blame for Keesler Air Force Base facing the loss of hundreds of jobs? Two South Mississippi Republicans are pointing the finger at one another as they vie to win the 4th District Congressional race. On June 3, incumbent Steven Palazzo will face former Congressman Gene Taylor in the Republican primary.
If 10 C-130Js take off permanently from Keesler Air Force Base, officials at the base say they'll also lose employees. Congressional candidate Gene Taylor says he blames the current 4th District Congressman.
"Steven Palazzo voted with Nancy Pelosi to cut the defense budget by $490 billion," said Taylor. "That directly is attributed to what is happening at Keesler Air Force Base, now where they're losing one of their two wings."
Taylor said he's concerned that if Keesler loses its C-130Js, the Department of Defense won't stop there.
"If they take the Hurricane Hunters away it's entirely possible that entire base could close," said Taylor. "One of the things I want to do is get back in office and start growing that base again rather than letting it die the way Steven Palazzo has."
Palazzo said he has fought to keep the C-130J's at Keesler and will continue to do so.
"We have the national defense authorization act coming up in the near future, and I plan on having legislation in there that keeps the planes right here in South Mississippi," Palazzo said.
Palazzo said the steep budget cuts wouldn't be needed if the country were not in the bad financial shape it is now. It is a situation Palazzo says his predecessor helped create.
"If you look at the fact that the former member of Congress, lifelong Democrat Gene Taylor, he basically added about $12 trillion to our national debt," said Palazzo. "Our leadership is saying our greatest threat to our national security is our national debt, so they're having to make some decisions."
Taylor said if elected, he will work to mend fences with the parts of the country he feels Palazzo has alienated.
"Congressman Palazzo voted against Sandy relief, the same people who lined up to help us," Taylor said. "When he voted against their relief, he jeopardizes our recovery from a future storm because those people from New England are going to remember that they were there for us when we needed them but he was not there for them."
Palazzo said he wants to continue his work in office to strengthen the economy and create jobs.
"I'm working very hard for them to reign in our out of control debt and cut spending responsibly and grow the economy," said Palazzo. "We're trying to simplify and make the tax code flatter and fairer. These are the things we're doing in conjunction with my leadership as Chairman of the Space Subcommittee. We've been watching Russia really closely lately. A lot of people don't know Russia controls America's human access to space. We need to make sure we get back to launching American astronauts from American rockets on American soil."
Along with Steven Palazzo and Gene Taylor there are three other candidates in the Republican primary for Congressional District 4. They are Tom Carter, Tavish Kelly and Ron Vincent. That primary election is June 3.