The race for Florida House of Representatives District 1, which covers the vast majority of Escambia County, features primaries on both sides of the political aisle. One the Republican side, one-term incumbent Mike Hill faces a challenge from political newcomer Michelle Salzman.
Today, WUWF’s series on the 2020 election highlights Hill’s re-election bid.
Hill is a 10-year Air Force veteran, who spent his formative years at Eglin Air Force Base, when his father was in the Air force. Now 62 years old, he has owned and operated an insurance agency in Northwest Florida for the past three decades.
“I am a conservative constitutionalist,” declared Hill. “Why? Because I said that oath; that is so important to me because of my faith.”
Hill went on to say that he believes what the public generally wants from their elected officials is good public policy.
“For me, good public policy consists of four things. Number one - is it constitutional? Number two - is it fiscally responsible? Number three – will it fix a problem or create a problem? And, number four – is it morally sound?”
This is Hill’s fifth run for state office. He was elected twice to the House District 2 seat, lost a 2016 bid for State Senate, and is now seeking re-election to the House District 1 post he won two years ago.
As he did in 2018, Hill is making his final push for votes going door to door. But, like other candidates, he’s facing new challenges on the campaign trail in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent spike in cases.
“So, we haven’t been able to have meetings where you can have gatherings to have debates and even for fundraising, can’t do that,” Hill began. “And, even the traditional knocking on doors, we just started that recently; and, it was just before this second wave took over that we started it. Now, we may even need to slow down doing that again because of the second wave that we’re experiencing.”
Hill supports the governor’s reopening strategy, including the order to reopen schools in August, believing it can be done safely by following CDC guidelines.
In terms of economic recovery from COVID-19, he says the fastest path is to keep businesses open and operating.
“Businesses owners will take the appropriate steps to make sure their customers are going to be safe; we’re seeing it right now,” he said. “You can’t go into Sam’s or to Walmart without face coverings. They only allow a certain number of people in at a time. They did that without government mandating that that happen. And, I think businesses will take those sorts of steps and that’s what’s going to turn the economy around.”
Sticking with current affairs, Hill was asked about the Black Lives Matter movement and what legislative actions he would propose to address racial injustice.
Hill, whose son works for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, reflected back on improved conditions for racial minorities due to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But, for the most part, he believes the existence of racism in government is more of an individual problem, not systemic and not a job for state lawmakers.
“I think, first of all, government itself can’t stop racial injustice because that is a product of man’s nature,” Hill declared. “There are going to be people who just have that bent toward racism. Thank goodness, in America and in Pensacola and Escambia County, that is not a prevailing sentiment. It may have been in the past, but it’s not at this time, where racism is really a big issue. So, I think what we have to focus on instead is family values.”
A closer review of the history of racial injustice is resulting the removal of Confederate monuments, including plans to relocate the one at Pensacola’s Lee Square. On this issue, Hill’s position has been well chronicled in his online video posts.
“I’m conservative, Republican Mike Hill. I’m here to stand in defense of this Confederate monument,” begins one of his Facebook posts.
Hill, a Republican who happens to be black, seems out of touch with the prevailing stance of most African Americans in the area and across the county. He acknowledged the atrocities at the (Pensacola) site over the years, but he disputes historical conclusions that the 1890s monument is a symbol of white supremacy. Further, he believes its removal is illegal. He’s vowed to fight such efforts, and has made preserving all historic monuments one of his platforms.
“My bill listed 16 conflicts, major conflicts that the U.S. was involved in, starting with the Spanish-American War and going all the way up to our current conflicts,” he explained. “And, of course, it had to list the Civil War. In the Civil War, we lost more people, over 600,000, than any other battle we were involved in, so it had to be in there. But, the word 'confederate' is nowhere in that bill.”
That bill and the vast majority of others sponsored or co-sponsored by Hill failed to win approval. Further, his critics say he’s been totally ineffective.
For his part, he says it’s not unusual for proposed legislation to fail, noting that more than 3,000 bills were introduced last session and only 200 of them eventually passed.
His plan is to keep trying with the monuments measure and his other priority issues.
“Number one is protecting the life of the pre-born,” proclaimed Hill as he pointed to his plan to continue pushing for passage of a “fetal heartbeat” bill to drastically limit abortions in Florida.
“Number two, protecting our constitutional rights, in particular the Second Amendment.”
Specifically as it relates to the Second Amendment, Hill wants to eliminate gun control provisions included in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
“And, number three, trying to get rid of as many unnecessary rules, regulations, taxes and fees, which hinder our economy.”
For the third contest in a row, Hill is facing a female opponent, this time from political newcomer, Michelle Salzman.
Following the recent trend for those running on the Republican Party ticket, both candidates describe themselves as “conservative.”
Hill says for him that term reflects his deep-rooted belief in limited government, low taxes, personal freedom and individual responsibility.
“I know why I’m a conservative. It’s not just because I’m just saying so,” he declared. “It’s because I know how I’ve studied government that that is what works, and I believe that is going to be best for our constituents.”
Hill is seeking reelection to the Florida House of Representatives District 1 seat.
More information about Hill’s campaign is available on his Mike Hill for Florida Facebook page.
Next time, WUWF will profile his Aug. 18 GOP primary opponent, Michelle Salzman.