Former state Rep. Mike Hill defied the polls and a significant fundraising deficit to emerge victorious in the Republican primary for Escambia County’s House District 1 Tuesday.
Hill received 48 percent of the vote in the three-way primary, defeating rising GOP star Rebekah Bydlak by 3 points, while and Lisa Doss took the balance of the vote. He is now set to succeed term-limited Rep. Clay Ingram in November and return to the House after a two year absence.
The primary battle had been raging for nearly a year. Bydlak was the first-in candidate for the seat, filing her paperwork in August 2017, with Hill entering the race a month later.
Bydlak proved early that she had some fundraising prowess, and overall ran a much more public campaign than either of her competitors. In her first 30 days, she raised more than $60,000 and that success continued with healthy reports posted monthly as Hill struggled to pull in funds.
When it comes to endorsements, Bydlak again led. A few months out from primary election day Bydlak landed Ingram’s endorsement, and Republican pols had already turned out in force to help her raise campaign cash. Later on came the endorsements from major groups including the Florida Medical Association and the National Rifle Association.
But fundraising and endorsements only go so far.
Hill made a name for himself in Northwest Florida politics with his dominating win in the 2013 special election for House District 2, where he defeated five other Republicans to replace state Rep. Clay Ford, who died in office.
After an easy re-election in 2014, Hill made a run for Florida Senate in 2016 where he lost an expensive and bruising Republican primary battle against now-Sen. Doug Broxson by double digits.
Two years later, the results are the same for hill as that initial run for public office, where he wasn’t the flashiest candidate but managed to pound the pavement and get the job done.
Now that Hill has officially won the Republican nomination, he faces Vikki Garrett, who won the Democratic nomination over Franscine Mathis with 60 percent of the vote.
The general election will likely be less contested than the primary, however, as the HD 1 is one of the most safely Republican strongholds in the state.
HD 1 covers the bulk of Escambia County, including the communities of Century, Molino, Gonzalez, Ensley, Ferry Pass, Belleview, and Brent.