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If Jeff Miller runs for Senate, North Florida dominoes will begin to fall

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If Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller runs in 2016 for Marco Rubio’s seat in the U.S. Senate, the political dominoes that are likely to fall will stretch from Florida’s border with Alabama to the Suwanee River.

Odds of Miller running increased after he attended this past weekend’s quarterly meeting of the Republican Party of Florida, something that the Chumuckla lawmaker has not done for almost a year. Many saw Miller’s attendance at the event as yet another indication he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Not everyone is thrilled by a Miller run for Senate. According to Rick Outzen of Pensacola-based InWeekly, the big money in the Panhandle wants Miller to stay put. They are already worried about being called on for big campaign contributions for Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. If Miller makes the move for the Senate, then they will be expected to write checks for him and his successor.

If Miller should decide to run, the first question is who will take his place on Capitol Hill.

According to Outzen, as well as discussions with local political consultant Ryan Wiggins, those looking at replacing Miller include senior Republican state Sens. Greg Evers and Don Gaetz, Republican state Rep. Mike Hill from Pensacola Beach, Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford, and Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward.

With the entry of either Gaetz or Evers, that will leave an opening in the Florida Senate. Gaetz’s son, Matt, is the far-away front-runner to win his father’s seat. Lining up to run for Evers’s seat include Republican state Reps. Doug Broxson and Clay IngramEscambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson, and University of West Florida Assistant Vice President Janice Gilley. The previously mentioned Hill is also in the mix.

With Bronson, Gaetz, and Ingram’s state House seats opening up, a slew of North Florida politicos are contemplating a run for the Legislature. Among the names being bantered about are Pensacola-area attorneys Doug Bates and Frank White, Pensacola City Council member Charles Bare, business executive Rusty Branchformer state Rep. Dave Murzin and Santa Rosa County Commissioner Jayer Williamson. Gilley, Hayward, and Robinson are also possibilities for a House run.

Outlzen also notes that on the 2016 ballot will be a replacement for Santa Rosa County Sheriff Wendell Hall, if he chooses not to run for a fifth term. Two names being floated are Evers and Sgt. Ted Roy of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

One thing is for sure, if Miller runs for Congress, there are going to be some very busy political consultants in North Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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