Mike Hill wins House District 2 seat; becomes Legislature’s only black Republican

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Mike Hill, founder and leader of the Northwest Florida Tea Party, has won the special election for the vacant House District 2 seat.

Hill takes the place of Republican Rep. Clay Ford of Gulf Breeze, who died in March after battling cancer. With his win, Hill becomes the only African-American Republican currently serving in the Florida Legislature.

Hill collected nearly 58 percent of the vote, while Democrat Jeremy Lau, a labor-union leader, received about 42 percent.

After Tuesday’s results came in, Hill said in a brief telephone interview that he focused throughout the campaign on a conservative message that was “from my heart.” He said voters in the district were looking for that type of message.

“It’s simply a message that resonates in this conservative part of Florida,” Hill said.

Hill won decisively in the mostly Republican district which carried Gov. Rick Scott by 16 points in 2010. It would be one of his best showings in the state. Voter records also show an eight-point voter registration advantage for Republicans.

As a Tea Party conservative, Hill brings to the Legislature a strong message of fiscal responsibility, standing up to special interest groups and repealing Obamacare. Like a family with its budget, Hill says Florida lawmakers should stop spending more than they take in “both by law and out of plain decency.”

At the beginning of the campaign, Hill trailed by as much as 14 points. However, the former Air Force officer and current Pensacola State Farm agent  arrived at the June 11 special election a heavy favorite, leading in both popularity and funds collected.  Hill raised $200,662 in his campaign, out performing Lau by nearly 7 to 1. 

Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who is expected to become House speaker after the 2014 elections, said in a prepared statement that Hill will be a “strong conservative voice in our caucus.”

“His election sends a clear message that Floridians want smaller government, lower taxes, and the freedom to pursue the American Dream,” Crisafulli said.

House District 2 represents parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. It also includes the cities of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze, as well as areas of Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key and Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.