Paul Renner endorses Michelle Salzman in Mike Hill rematch
Michelle Salzman. Image via Colin Hackley.

The establishment is once again choosing Salzman over Hill.

Speaker-designate Paul Renner is endorsing incumbent Rep. Michelle Salzman as she faces a Primary rematch against former Rep. Mike Hill, who she unseated two years ago.

Hill filed Tuesday to retake his seat representing House District 1. Both are Pensacola Republicans, but Hill’s actions inside and outside the Legislature ostracized him in Tallahassee, and the establishment coalesced around Salzman in 2020.

With the endorsement from Renner, a Palm Coast Republican who is expected to lead the House next term, the establishment is once again choosing Salzman, a U.S. Army veteran. Renner serves as Chairman of the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, the House Majority’s campaign arm.

“Michelle Salzman is a strong conservative and the fresh voice we need in Tallahassee,” Renner said in a statement.

“Her service to our country, her experience as a small business owner, and her commitment to putting her constituents first have prepared her for the battles we will take on in Tallahassee to make Florida the best state for children, families, veterans, and workers to succeed. I look forward to working with Rep. Salzman to continue delivering for her community in Northwest Florida.”

HD 1 covers the northern part of Escambia County, ending just outside the Pensacola city limits, and is a seat that favors Republicans.

“I am committed to fighting for Escambia County to get the attention and resources we need from Tallahassee,” Salzman said. “Together, we have delivered millions of dollars for higher-paying jobs, to rebuild our communities, and thanks to leaders like Speaker-designate Renner we’re going to keep Florida open and free.”

Hill served two and a half terms in the House, from 2014 to 2016 in House District 2 and from 2018 to 2020 in HD 1. But Salzman edged out Hill in 2020 with 52% of the vote in the Republican Primary. The rematch is slated for Aug. 23.

In 2019, Hill made national headlines after he was recorded laughing off a suggestion that people start stoning gays. That recording and the Pensacola Republican’s subsequent nonapology led politicians on both sides of the aisle to condemn him.

House leadership even tossed him from the prestigious House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee.

Hill has also spurred controversy amid the coronavirus pandemic, refusing to help a constituent who was struggling with the collapsed unemployment system at a time when lawmakers in both parties were turning their district offices into ersatz unemployment offices by providing paper applications and rushing them to Tallahassee with an assist from FedEx.

Hill went on the offensive during the 2020 race, smearing Salzman with mailers claiming she supports defunding police and other positions that would be controversial in any GOP Primary, let alone one in the deep-red Escambia County district. Salzman filed official complaints describing the complaints as misleading.

Hill also claimed in 2018 that he was bringing then-President Donald Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Pensacola.

Salzman’s campaign had a strong close in 2020, earning endorsements from the Florida Medical Association and posting a five-figure report for the last week of July and another for the first couple weeks of August. By Election Day, she had outraised him $98,000 to $88,000 and outspent him by $15,000.

While in office, Hill sponsored legislation like a heartbeat abortion ban, a bill protecting Confederate monuments, a firearms bill removing Florida’s red flag law and more. None of those measures passed the Republican-led Legislature. Neither did any of the bills he sponsored in the 2018 to 2020 term.

In two years, Salzman has passed five bills, including a bill that will give Pensacola firefighters the same pension plan and will extend death benefits to surviving spouses who remarry.

Salzman’s 2020 victory was narrow, but she now has an advantage as the incumbent. However, lawmakers redrew HD 1’s district lines as part of the decennial redistricting process, slightly altering how the new district might perform.


Drew Wilson of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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