Rep. Mike Hill of Pensacola, no stranger to gaffes in normal times, is stepping up his game during the coronavirus crisis.
Hill’s latest antic is an email to a constituent who made the mistake of reaching out to the Panhandle lawmaker for help navigating the state’s unemployment claims system.
“It is clear now that government created this disaster,” Hill wrote Amanda McCallum, a server at a Pensacola bar, “and government does not have the answer.”
“When Americans are tired of being afraid and instead want to work and provide for their families,” Hill insisted, “they will.”
“Don’t ask for government permission,” Hill advised.
McCallum has no control over whether she works, of course. The same government that Hill is a part of closed bars and dine-in restaurants as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.
McCallum posted Hill’s response on her personal Facebook page.
Hill’s career in the Florida Legislature has been typified by unforced errors, as even casual observers of The Process know.
Before this year’s Session, the legislator was yanked by Speaker Jose Oliva from the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, after offering offensive commentary about the LGBTQ community.
In May, the News Journal released audio detailing Hill’s exchange with an audience member at a meeting with a group called Women for Responsible Legislation.
A man in the audience (incorrectly) cited 1 Corinthians, saying it supports putting gays to death, then asks Hill to sponsor legislation allowing the same.
Hill is heard on tape laughing before saying, “I wonder how that would go over.”
Oliva released a joint statement on the matter with Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls: “We unequivocally condemn both the question asked of Rep. Hill, and Rep. Hill’s laughter and refusal to push back and remind his audience that this is America and we don’t stone people to death we disagree with.”
Hill’s recalcitrance has led to a serious primary challenge in Michelle Salzman. She is backed by former Senate President Don Gaetz, former Rep. Frank White and several other influential Northwest Florida Republicans.
Hill’s fundraising was frozen during Session, and he raised just $1,250 since Sine Die. He has under $20,000 cash on hand, a perilous position to be in with the GOP establishment squared up against him.
Salzman has approximately $27,000 on hand, with a high burn rate cutting into over $52,000 raised thus far.
Hill was elected to HD 1 in 2018 after previously holding HD 2 and giving it up for an ill-fated Senate run.
His return to the Legislature took every trick in the book — he trashed one of his Republican primary opponent for being childless and falsely claimed that he had both President Donald Trump’s endorsement and, oddly, his star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He won the GOP nomination by just 542 votes.
HD 1 covers the western edge of Escambia County. It is solidly Republican. Hill received 60% of the vote in the 2018 general election. The district also went plus-27 for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Florida Politics’ AG Gancarski, Drew Wilson, and Ryan Nicol contributed to this post.