Republican incumbent Mike Hill lost his HD 1primary on Tuesday to Michelle Salzman, the only challenger in the contest to represent Escambia County.
Salzman filed for candidacy in late June of last year and since then consistently outraised Hill with nearly $98,000 in campaign cash through early August of this year. Hill raised almost $89,000 since he filed for reelection in February of last year, but his fundraising slowed considerable as support seemed to coalesce around Salzman in early 2020.
The challenger received many crucial endorsements from major Republicans throughout her district, signaling discontent with Hill stemming from several incidents in which the outspoken panhandle pol seemed to lose favor with GOP leadership. Among the more notable signals that Hill had fallen from grace: former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and former State Representative Frank White both were on Salzman’s host committee list for a campaign fundraiser.
When Hill first won the seat in a 2013 special election to replace the late Clay Ford, when he became the first black in more than a century to represent the Florida panhandle in Florida’s legislature. After a failed campaign for state senate in 2016, Hill returned to the House in 2018 with nearly 61% of the vote, but an incident at a public forum, in which he laughed in response to a question from an audience member about Biblical penalties for homosexuality that included the death penalty, Hill laughed and said “imagine how that would go over” if he introduced such legislation.
Last night, Salzman edged Hill by just over 1,000 votes out of more than 21,000 votes cast. She finished with 52.5 percent to Hill’s 47.5 percent. Salzman will now face Democrat candidate Franscine C. Mathis who won the Democratic primary. The district, which includes Pensacola, is overwhelmingly Republican and Salzman is expected to cruise to an easy general election win.