© 2022 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

There’s a rematch in the Florida House-1 GOP primary

Salzman and Hill race

The race for the Republican nomination for the District-1 seat in the Florida House of Representatives is an across-the-board rematch of 2020.

In the words of Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Michelle Saltzman, a political newcomer, defeated incumbent Mike Hill in the GOP primary, 53-47%. She then beat Democratic nominee Franscine Mathis with 65% of the vote.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, and several of the areas which were priorities of mine, but progress is slow,” said Salzman. “We move at the speed of government, so good progress isn’t easy. We can make progress, but it won’t be good if we rush it.”

That progress, she says, covers a myriad of areas: public safety, infrastructure, safe walkways, education, and what could be her signature issue, mental health, which she says was in crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic just really opened everybody’s eyes and showed them — hey, look this is actually a problem,” Salzman said. “When you take human beings and put them in coveys and you put them in bedrooms in their homes, and you lock them in there, put them in front of a screed and take away that humanity, it’s of course going to cause some serious issues.”

Salzman helped found the Mental Health Task Force of Northwest Florida, which has been working this year on a strategic plans for the Pensacola area. An outside organization would submit the plan to a number of state agencies for action and funding.

“The secretary of [the Agency for Health Care Administration], Department of Families and Children; the secretary of the Department of Health [and] the Department of Economic Opportunities,” she said. “All have their own budgets and if they see, which they’ve already seen and have supplied money. But if they see a true strategic plan that would require some funding, then we’ll be able to do that through this process.”

As a Republican, Salzman supports Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other GOP leaders. But she adds that, in her view, there is room for disagreement, and not being in lockstep.

“We’re not in a cult because I stand next to Matt Gaetz, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, all of them, because I stand beside them doesn’t mean that we 100% agree, or even 75% agree,” said Salzman. “It means that we stand in the same party, and we’re going to find our commonalities and we’re going to work together and move this country in the right direction.”

With less than three weeks until the [Aug. 23] primary, Michelle Salzman’s campaign strategy appears to be more of the same that began on day one — getting out and talking to residents.

“Find out if they need anything at all; very rarely do I ever ask them to vote for me,” said Salzman. “It’s more like, how am I doing? Can I do anything better? Can I do anything for you in particular? What are things that you like? Those are the questions that I ask them, because at the end of the day whether I’m elected or not that’s what matters.”

Salzman has raised more than $216,000, according to the latest figures from the Florida Division of Elections. Hill has raised just over $23,000.

Mike Hill wants his old gig back. He says he was pretty well done with politics after his loss two years ago, but circumstances changed.

“But then, when I saw what the Left and the RINO establishment are doing to our country, I could no longer sit on the sidelines and watch,” he said. “I said, I must get back in there and do what I can to fight, help Florida, and help this country get through what we see as happening to us right now.”

After entering the race in June, Hill has been playing catch-up of sorts in the areas of meeting the voters and fundraising. If elected, he has his agenda set for the 2023 legislative session, beginning with the “Life at Conception” measure.

“Now that we have the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and now the states are going to decide what the abortion policy is going to be in that state — we need to protect all life — life at conception,” said Hill. “That’s going to be a focus for me when I get there. I’ll file that bill, it will be one of my first.”

Hill also backs passage of “constitutional carry” enabling the purchase and carry of a firearm without a permit, and what he contends is a continuing problem with election fraud. One target is early voting, which runs from August 13-20 for the primary.

“Eventually, I would like to see early voting removed altogether,” Hill said. “If you look at the numbers, the participation rate of those who are actually voting did not increase dramatically when we started early voting. It’s remained pretty much the same. So the idea was having early voting would allow more people to vote, but the numbers just don’t bear out to that.”

Mike Hill remains a supporter of Donald Trump, but there are some other Republican candidates who are distancing themselves from the former president and his ongoing legal issues. If they are, he says, they’re making a “big mistake.”

“And the reason I say that is because what we’ve see is that [the] January 6 Committee and others, what they’re doing, is all politicized,” Hill claims. “There’s nothing really behind it, I think it’s all bogus.”

Looking inward at Florida House-1, Hill says the issues important to the entire state are important to the district, including population growth and infrastructure.

“When I was previously in the House, I got with [Escambia] County administration and asked them, ‘What about our bridges? Can you give me a study on that?’ They came back and said, ‘Mike, we have some bridges in Escambia County that are so old, we don’t know when they were built.’”

The GOP nominee will face Franscine Mathis on November 8. The Democratic primary was canceled, after she became the lone candidate to qualify.

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.