The race for Florida House of Representatives District 1 features both Democratic and Republican primaries. On the GOP side, political newcomer Michelle Salzman is mounting a challenge against one-term incumbent Mike Hill. Today, WUWF checks in on the Salzman campaign.
“It’s been going fantastic. It’s just been very humbling,” says Salzman, describing her first run for political office and the boost she’s gotten from talking to many local people who share her views and concerns.
“When I started knocking on doors and hosting meetings and stuff, you just never know if you’re on the right path,” she said. “But, I tell you, it has been an incredible journey and no matter where the ending takes me, I know that we have made a difference in the community.”
For candidates running for office in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a pivot in approach, limiting face-to-face meetings and large campaign events. Salzman says she and her team made the most of the situation by shifting from campaigning to community outreach.
“We did thousands of dollars in food drives and we delivered stuff to PPE (personal protective equipment) and I was an 'admin' on Pensacola Mask Sewers, where we sewed thousands of masks for all of our local community, hospitals, caretakers, providers,” Salzman explained. “We were able to navigate very well.”
Instead of knocking on doors, the Salzman campaign sent hand-written letters to constituents and made lots of phone calls. And, she started a series of live-streamed online chats.
“Hi guys, I’m just sharing on social media,” begins Salzman in one of her chats, as her husband works the computer in the background.
Salzman has used the Facebook chats to provide campaign updates, answer questions, and share details about her life, including the fact that she served five years in the Army and is a small-business owner.
“If you don’t know, we own a photography studio here in Pensacola; it’s been in business for almost 20 years,” she said in the chat.
The mother of three says their business has afforded supplemental income, allowing her to stay home with her kids and become a full-time volunteer and community advocate.
Salzman believes her online chats have boosted her profile compared to her better-known opponent, Mike Hill.
She’s competitive in campaign cash raised, with nearly $70,000 in her coffers. Hill has raised over $78,000.
Ideologically, she’s on the same page, as a conservative Republican who supports the right to life and to keep and bear arms.
But, if elected, she says there will be no comparison when it comes to effectiveness in fighting to bring tax dollars back home.
“I can get it done,” declared Salzman. “For the past two years, he’s been our representative and we’ve sent $480 million in tax revenues to Tallahassee and Mike has brought back zero dollars. But, he also didn’t even ask for any of it back. He didn’t file that appropriations bill.”
A check on the Florida House of Representatives website confirms that Hill did not file any appropriations bills during the 2020 Legislative Session and filed just one, on behalf of Pensacola State College, in 2019.
Salzman believes she’s accomplished more as a volunteer, in her leadership positions on local and state councils of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and her service on the boards of various nonprofits, such as the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, Take Stock in Children, Studer Community Institute, and Achieve Escambia.
She says her platform centers on getting back to the basics of state government, by focusing on public safety, infrastructure, and education.
“Education is the cornerstone of economic stability, growth, and development,” begins one of her campaign ads. It goes on to talk about her advocacy for education in Escambia County by training and developing thousands of parent-leaders, overseeing millions of dollars in fundraising, and being a national voice of early childhood education.”
As it relates to the current spike in Florida coronavirus cases and suggestions for how the state might get it under control, Salzman believes the first step is to restore accuracy and trust in data that comes from subject-matter experts.
Economic recovery from the pandemic, she believes, is one of the most pressing issues in the state. Her ideas include the possible signing another gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe and enacting a tax on Internet sales.
“Folks anywhere can go online and order something online and not pay sales tax. But, if you go into a local small business, you have to pay a sales tax on that item. So, we could do some really economical, fair taxation and simply add that,” she explained.
In terms of recommendations for addressing racial injustice and the Black Lives Movement, Salzman rejected the idea of any reforms that would take money away from law enforcement, adding that she’s unsure if legislative action is necessary or would help. But, she believes there’s still room for progress if people on both ends of the issue are willing to give ground.
“You cannot be a voice in change if you don’t have a seat at the table,” she said. “So, when you become so divisive in nature and so segmented in conversation, you’re only talking to people that agree with you and you’re no longer making an impact.”
Asked about the pending removal of Pensacola’s Confederate monument, Salzman wasn’t really interested in addressing it since it’s not in District 1. However, she conceded that she personally does not support the idea of removal, but would bow to the will of the district’s 156,303 constituents, which are 68% white and nearly 23% black.
Michelle Salzman will take on incumbent Mike Hill in the Republican primary for Florida House District 1. For more information about Salzman and her campaign, visit www.votesalzman.com.