Ehr Seeks Democratic Nomination in FL 1st Congressional District

Aug 24, 2018

Phil Ehr, Democratic candidate for Florida's 1st Congressional District.
Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

In WUWF's continuing visits with Pensacola-area candidates, we spoke with Philip Ehr, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination in the 1st District Congressional race in  his first run for public office.

First of all, there’s this little matter of party affiliation. For nearly four decades, Ehr was a Republican.

“I registered in a closed primary state – in my case Maryland – at 18 years old and went with the Republican Party for various reasons,” said Ehr. “Family tradition, some cultural issues; and I stuck with it through my service in the Navy.”

After leaving the Navy, Ehr became more active in speaking. The changeover began during the 2016 election cycle, during which he supported Ohio Governor John Kasich for President.

“When he did not get the nomination and when Donald Trump did, I knew at the national level there was no place for me in the Republican Party,” Ehr said. “I looked back to our district, and I noticed that the six or seven Republican candidates for the nomination to the House or Representatives – not a single one of them – had a critical word to say about Mr. Trump. And that is unconscionable.”

Ehr had two choices: No Party Affiliation, or become a Democrat.

“In my lifetime, and Democrats have been more right on Civil Rights than the Republicans; the Democrats have been more right on the environment,” said Ehr. “And I recognize that when Democratic presidents have compromised with Congress – the way that we’re supposed to be having our federal government operate – our debt goes down and our economy is on the positive.”

For Ehr, so called “kitchen table issues” are his top priorities, pointing to what he claims is the dysfunction of Congress in developing more and better-paying jobs.

“Where is the stimulus bill? The fact that it’s not present is an instance of legislative malpractice,” Ehr contends. “What we do have is a tax cut law that has given way too much credence to a failed theory of trickle-down economics.”

Part of Ehr’s campaign pitch online includes “State of the Dream.” A nationwide request launched by actress and activist Alyssa Milano for candidates to produce videos about their campaigns and goals. Ehr filmed his at Veterans Memorial Park in Pensacola.

“We dare to unify beyond party affiliation,” said Ehr in the video. “To expand the American dream, primarily for workers struggling to share in America’s bounty. We’re fighting for better-paying jobs; skills training for American workers to keep up with and lead the global economy.”

Illegal immigration is bad, legal immigration is good, says Ehr. And the wall proposed by President Trump on the border with Mexico would be a “monument to fear;” ineffective, and a waste of money.

“We need secure borders for economic reasons [and] security reasons; and to focus so much on the Southwest border is misplaced attention and resources,’ says Ehr. “And it is playing on the fears of racism that is coming out of the [Trump] administration.”

Unlike Republican candidates who once again are running on the idea of scrapping Obamacare, Ehr calls for keeping the Affordable Care Act, and fixing what’s wrong. 

“While Republicans say ‘repeal and replace, repeal and replace,’ where is the replacement? They just don’t have any,” said Ehr. “Another instance of incompetence, in the way they approach major legislation. When the Democratic leadership convinced [Sen.] John McCain to come out that night and put his thumbs down, what McCain and the Democrats were saying was, ‘sometimes process is substance.’”

Phil Ehr served 26 years in the Navy, rising from the enlisted ranks to become an aviator who flew missions during the Cold War and Operation Desert Storm. So it goes without saying one of his closest issues is taking care of his fellow veterans in areas such as health care and transition services.

“We need to provide good medical care for whatever it costs basically, to help repair those people who have given their all for our country,” says Ehr. “We’ve got a covenant, and I’ve got the experience to recognize it and to deal with it.”

One question Democratic House candidates are facing is how they stand on the possible impeachment of President Trump, if their party wins the House in November. Ehr — if he’s elected — says he and his colleagues would need to approach it slowly and deliberately.

“To make sure I’m consulting with people in our district; to air it out,” says Ehr. “There have been indications and warning of all kinds of financial misdeeds and malevolent influence emanating from Russia that are real. But, we need evidence.”

If Phi Ehr takes the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, on November 6 he’ll face either incumbent Republican Matt Gaetz or Cris Dosev – a Marine Corps veteran and friend of Ehr’s from their flight school days aboard NAS Pensacola.