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Ponder Wins GOP Nomination In Florida House District 4

City of Destin

Former Destin Mayor Mel Ponder is the apparent successor to Matt Gaetz in the Florida House of Representatives, according to unofficial figures from Tuesday’s primary. 

Ponder collected a plurality of the vote, just over 29 percent, against four other Republicans in House District-4, which covers Okaloosa County from the Gulf of Mexico to Interstate 10 and north of I-10, including the city of Crestview.

“Throughout the process, unfortunately, some negativity took place,” said Ponder. “We made the tough choice that we weren’t going to participate in that. We ran a clean campaign, and it worked out to our favor.”

Jonathan Michael Tallman, a businessman who’d been endorsed by gun rights activists, was the next top vote-getter. Ponder will face Christopher Schwantz of Niceville in November, a write-in candidate who isn’t considered a serious challenger, by Schwantz himself.

“I know [Schwantz] personally; I understand he has no interest in going to the general [election],” Ponder said. “My understanding is that he got into the race to just close the primary.”

If that scenario plays out, Ponder would be sworn into office in January, replacing Matt Gaetz – now the Republican nominee in the First District Congressional race. Gaetz faces Democrat Steven Specht in the general election.

“Who can fill those shoes?” asked Ponder. “Rep. Gaetz and his father before him did some amazing things. I kind of look at it that I’m hoping to bring a different pair of shoes.”

Ponder’s platform involves building unity and teamwork in Tallahassee, and when necessary thinking regionally rather than just the district.

“Things like the BP oil spill money, we’re going to need to fight,” said Ponder. “Road, infrastructure, maybe stormwater perhaps. I look forward to stepping in and trying to kick some things off and do some good, not only for District-4 but really for all of northwest Florida.”

Florida House District-4, which includes Eglin Air Force Base, is one of the most heavily GOP in Florida. Republican voter registration outnumbers Democrats by a three-to-one margin. No Democrat ran for the seat. 

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.