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Democrat Vikki Garrett Comfortable Campaigning At The Ballpark

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

Pensacola area native Vikki Garrett is seeking to become the first Democrat in nearly two decades to win the District 1 seat in the Florida House of Representatives.  With the November 6 General Election fast approaching, she and her Republican opponent Mike Hill were both campaigning this past Saturday. WUWF found Garrett stumping for votes at the UWF football homecoming festivities.

Wearing matching t-shirts with her name on the front, Garrett and a member of her campaign team are back at their spot across from Bayfront Stadium at the corner of Main and Reus Streets. They’re in the shade, handing out beads and pom-poms.

Here, there’s little focus on the issues, but it’s a good a place to be seen by and interact with potential voters as they’re passing by.

“I think it’s been going great,” Garrett says about her campaign to this point. “I’ve been out and about doing as many events as possible, receiving really good reception and we’re having fun doing it.”

Garrett says she’s gotten a lot of feedback at the many events attended, noting that most of those outings have been at the ballpark.

“That gives us the opportunity to watch a game with folks and to chat about issues that they’re concerned about,” said Garrett.

She pointed out that mostly what people want to talk about local issues, such as building a public library in the Ensley area, but she offers reassurances regarding state support and explains how a particular request might get fulfilled.

When it comes to issues that are relevant to the state house race, she says many people want to discuss their concerns about public education in the state. The state legislature has a lot of input when it comes to the school system budget.

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
Vikki Garrett, the Democratic candidate for Florida House District 1, greets folks headed to the UWF homecoming game on Saturday.

During the primary, candidates go after voters within their own party. But, for the General Election all voters are up for grabs.  In this area, and in the district, the Republicans have an advantage in that there are more registered Republicans than any other group. But, Garrett agrees there are other “nuances” and shares her approach to attracting voters who are registered with No Party Affiliation and those who in the middle of the political spectrum.

“I think one of the biggest things to our advantage, regardless of party, I’m from Pensacola; I grew up in this district,” she said of her ability to reach across the political aisle. “So, if someone is a registered Republican and they went to school with me or they played ball with me or I’ve worked with them. They know me personally.”

For Garrett, it will be important to secure the African American vote within the Democratic base in district one and she’s accepted invitations to local churches to hear their concerns.

Again, public education is an issue.

“We have, unfortunately, school to prison pipeline issues here,” Garrett said. “We have the highest school arrest rate out of the entire state of Florida and so that’s a great concern.”

In conversations with candidate, it becomes apparent that sports are important to her. She was a softball player at Tate High School and earned a scholarship to play at then Pensacola Junior College. It’s natural that the ballpark is a comfortable place for her to meet and greet.

“It’s kind of one of those things that can bridge a divide," said Garrett. “If you’re cheering for the same team or on the same team, it kind of brings people together and you’re able to talk about issues and talk about things and it’s just a good connecting point."

At the UWF homecoming celebration this past Saturday, she was having fun, back at the spot she’s occupied for every home game this season.

“Usually, our approach, when we do events like this is we allow people to come up to us and if they want to engage in a conversation, we certainly take the time to do that,” Garrett explained. “Otherwise, it’s just mainly visibility, just getting our name out there.”

Just as Garrett uttered those words, on cue, another group of people headed to the game came through looking for trinkets.

Garrett is hoping that voters she meets on this today will remember her, find out more about her platform, and then support her when they cast their ballots.