The race for the open seat in Florida House District 2 will be decided on Primary Day. The seat is open because the incumbent, Frank White, is running for state Attorney General and is not seeking a second term. The race will be decided in the primary because there are no Democrats or Independents running, just two Republicans: Alex Andrade and Greg Merk.
Like many people in the district, Greg Merk came to the area through the military. "I've lived here since 1990. I've been part of this district for almost 30 years. I came here as a Navy flight student, was winged as an aviator in '92, retired in 2011. I've always had a passion for politics and I really felt that the district needed experienced leaders, it needed problem solvers and looking at this race, there was only one guy in the race. And no Democrat. And I really felt that it was unfair to the people of this district to have somebody who was anointed, somebody who was appointed. They needed a choice. And I really felt that I was the better choice."
While Merk says there are about a dozen issues in the state that directly affect District 2, he feels the region’s economy is the most pressing. "Pensacola and District 2 (have) been growing, but when you look at the rest of the state, similar sized districts and cities have been growing 6, 8, 10 percent. The state is now the third largest in the union, they surpassed New York State. But our district is just not growing as fast. We’re growing at maybe 1 percent, 1 point 2, 1 point 3. And I really believe it's because we're not bringing the right jobs to the area."
Merk says that the area should be attracting jobs that can complement some of the world-class employers that are already in the area. "Take (the Andrews Institute). A premier orthopedic center in the world, we've got aerospace (like) NAS Whiting Field (and) NAS Pensacola. We've got Eglin, we've got Hurlbert, we've got a huge supply of aviation-related fields and we need to capitalize on that. That’s why I'm focused on health care, I'm focused on aerospace and engineering. And cybersecurity. I mean UWF, they have a cybersecurity major. NAS Corey Station brings the Department of Homeland Security, brings the Department of Defense right here in our backyard. These are great jobs, great opportunities, and when our troops are getting out (of the military) making that transition to the civilian sector, let's keep them here. Too many of them are leaving; they say 'I've got to go where the money is.' I want it to be when they say I'm going where the money is they're talking about District 2, and I think we can do that."
On the environment, Merk believes fixing the water runoff and algae affecting south Florida now will take large amounts of money to fix, so he thinks we should be on the lookout for problems before they happen. "We need to always, first and foremost, make sure we're punishing polluters and holding people accountable. That’s very important. But we have to stay ahead of the power curve. You know, examine your policies to make sure something bad doesn't happen in the future. We have to be pro-active. We don't want to be a Flint, Michigan. So that's going to require us to constantly be testing, constantly be making the changes, stay ahead of the power curve so that we're not having to react and be devastated by the media. You say that (name) Flint, Michigan and everybody knows what you're talking about. So I think that it's important for us to remain vigilant and proactive."
And about that constitutional amendment on the ballot to restore felons rights after they have served their sentence. "That is a Democrat (sic) Party issue I believe. When you look at that nationwide, and that's a movement that's moving nationwide, (Democrats) are looking for votes. And look, if we continue to run our culture on this notion or this promotion that there are not consequences to our actions, our culture is going to continue to run amuck. I'm a conservative. And I believe firmly that you look at your life, and you say 'I'm going to go this path or that path.' You have to count the cost. And that, in this country, has been one of the costs. So I oppose that. And I don't oppose it because I'm discompassionate, because I want to take away people's rights. Look, we do things in this country. And if it is the wrong thing, we forfeit some of those privileges. And that's part of it. So I oppose that, and I really think it's a Democrat (sic) push to get votes, to flip legislatures, to flip seats."
In the end, Merk says his passion for the people of the district, and his faith is what he’ll take to Tallahassee. "I had the blessing of growing up in a home where my mom and dad were saved. I became a Christian, and I believe we have to be passionate about things because if they are real in our heart if we really believe something, it's going to come out. We're going to be passionate about it. I believe only a very small part of solving problems in our community and our country is government, right. We need good government, that's absolutely true. But we need to take our culture back because that's where we're really having our problems. Problems that the government can't solve. You can throw all the money you want at a problem, but if your culture's disintegrating, you're not going to fix the problem. Take our schools, for example. In Escambia County, we've got a pretty rough school system. Everybody knows it. The entire state knows it. And we can throw all the money we want at our schools, but if we continue to have fathers that are missing in action in raising their children, all that money's not going to make a difference."
Greg Merk is running in the August 28 Republican primary for the Florida House of Representatives seat in District 2. His opponent is Alex Andrade. It is an open primary since there are no Democrats or independents running, so anyone, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the primary if they live in the district.