Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill has filed campaign paperwork to run for re-election, kicking off what’s sure to be one of the area’s most hotly-contested political races of 2018.
Underhill, a 25 year veteran of the U.S. Navy, was first elected to represent District 2 in 2014, winning nearly 63% of the vote and unseating then-incumbent Gene Valentino. Underhill is currently serving as chair of the Board of County Commissioners through 2017.
“We are looking forward to a campaign on the issues that are important to District 2 and Escambia County,” Underhill said Wednesday.
Underhill has outlined specific priorities during his first term and through his re-election, including reducing public spending, increasing public engagement, and training for county staff. He has also worked to implement and support workforce development programs such as Cyberthon, Cyber Safe Workforce, and Innovation Coast.
“The West side of Pensacola continues to be the center of our technology growth in Escambia County; we can create a substantial workforce with high-income jobs in important areas such as Warrington, Brownsville, and Edgewater,” Underhill said.
The Perdido Key Republican joins Pensacola resident Alan McMillan in the district 2 race, who filed on March 2 to run for the seat that represents much of the southwestern portion of the county, including Naval Air Sation Pensacola, Warrington, Brownsville, Perdido Key, and Myrtle Grove.
McMillan’s experience includes serving as president of a local homeowners association, Vice Chairman of Escambia County Restore Committee, a member of the Escambia County Mass Transit Advisory Committee, and serving as an officer with the Pensacola Yacht Club. McMillan spent most of his career within the U.S. Department of Labor, eventually serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
While Underhill has yet to officially raise any campaign funds, McMillan has already surpassed $40,000 in contributions, mostly from personal loans to himself and through wealthy individuals that have utilized the so-called “LLC loophole” to give thousands of dollars to McMillan’s campaign.
The “LLC loophole” allows a person who owns several businesses — often limited liability companies, or LLCs — to give the maximum allowable campaign contribution through each business. This provides a legal way for individuals to effectively buy more political influence. Businesses are only required to disclose their business names and addresses. McMillan’s largest donors include Pensacola developers Tony Terhaar and Jim Cronley, former state senator Jim Reeves, developer Fred Gunther, and former Escambia County Commissioner Wilson Robertson.
In the Republican-dominated District 2, the GOP primary is often the deciding contest. That election is set for August 28, 2018. While no Democrats have currently filed to run for the seat, should a Democratic candidate qualify, the race would ultimately be decided at the November 8, 2018 general election.