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Florida's First Congressional District: Steven Specht

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

In the next installment of our update on the District 1 Congressional race, WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody sat down with Democratic nominee Steven Specht.

This is Steven Specht’s rookie season, politically speaking, and while Republican Matt Gaetz had to battle seven other candidates in the GOP primary, Specht got to the general election with no opposition. He says so far, no real surprises on the campaign trail.

“It’s been a blast, and really people have been receptive to it,” Specht says. “Because we live in a country where we have been forced to pick between two extremes. And there’s this moderate voice that’s willing to talk about issues most important to the individuals.”

Specht, who’s 33, is seeking a congressional seat that’s been in Republican hands since 1994, by super-majority votes of 60 percent or higher. For the most part, he’s been able to stick to his original strategy and to his message.

“The $19 trillion [national] debt, the education and jobs situation, and taking care of our veterans and our troops,” said Specht. “

In one of his campaign flyers, Specht lists a number of traffic violations against Gaetz over a 15-year period through 2015.

“What bugs me is that people say, ‘They’re just traffic tickets,’” said Specht. “Well, ‘just traffic tickets’ says a lot, but we live in a world where people call [Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton ‘Crooked Hillary.’ I’m not saying she’s crooked; I’m saying that this is the chance to nip someone in the bud [Gaetz] that has demonstrated that he doesn’t care about following the rules.”

Turning to the presidential race, Specht has called Republican nominee Donald Trump, and most recently Trump’s claims that the election is rigged against him, a “real threat.” Trump has rallied twice in Pensacola, as did his running mate Mike Pence last week. Specht says the attention being lavished on the Panhandle by the GOP is an indication that the demographics in the reddest part of Florida could be changing.

“The Florida Panhandle has been forgotten for a long time; everyone’s concentrated on the major population centers down south,” Specht says. “But, in addition to the multiple rallies that Trump and Pence have held, now the Clinton [campaign] has three different offices in our district. People are really taking this election seriously.”

But he stops short of endorsing Clinton, amid the controversies involving her emails as Secretary of State, and having what she calls a “public and private stance” on issues. Specht says his non-endorsement and keeping out of the race for the White House is more practical than political.

“The fact is, [endorsing] doesn’t help me one way or the other; I’ve not received any national support from the [Democratic National Committee],” says Specht. “And I don’t feel like I need to risk my political capital, supporting someone when I’m getting no support from the national people. “

For Steven Specht, the final three weeks of the campaign will be more of the same.

“People love it when I call them in person,” he says. “I’m going to continue engaging in events, driving around the district meeting new people. As long as people have a chance to know who I am, then the truth is going to bear out on November 8.”