Nearly three-quarters of a million people in Northwest Florida will have a new representative in Congress come January.
With retiring Congressman Jeff Miller leaving Congress after the November election, Florida’s first congressional district will have a new face in Washington, D.C., for the first time in nearly two decades.
Candidates Steven Specht and Matt Gaetz sat side by side Thursday in their first debate that stuck mostly to well-tread campaign talking points, but at times veered into deep convictions into how both candidates differ on political ideology.
The debate was hosted by the University of West Florida Rotaract, Scenic Hills Country Club, and BLAB TV.
Watch the full debate here:
Both candidates, in their early 30s, will be on the ballot come November and one of them will replace retiring incumbent Jeff Miller, 57, who has been in office since 2001.
Gaetz, 34, is a current state representative, first elected in 2010. Gaetz graduated from Florida State University in 2003 and from The College of William and Mary in 2007 with a juris doctor.
Specht, 33, is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Specht graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism and holds a masters in international relations. Specht most recently graduated from the Florida State University College of Law, with a specialization in constitutional and international law.
The district, which includes all of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton counties, as well as a portion of Holmes County, leans heavily Republican; a Democrat hasn’t represented the district in more than 20 years and the district hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1960. The Cook Political Report gives the district a Partisan Voting Index of R+22, meaning Republicans have a 22-percentage-point advantage over Democrats, the highest in the state.