Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz will defeat Democrat Steven Specht in Florida’s 1st District, The Associated Press projects.
Gaetz led Specht, 66 percent to 34 percent with 11 percent of precincts reporting.
He succeeds retiring GOP Rep. Jeff Miller.
Covering the Florida Panhandle border with Alabama, the 1st District includes all of Escambia, Holmes, and Santa Rosa counties and portions of Okaloosa and Walton counties. Pensacola is the district’s population center.
The incumbent, Miller, nearly ran for the U.S. Senate (even going so far as to pick a campaign headquarters) when Marco Rubio was running for president. But he abruptly dropped his Senate bid and announced his plans to retire from Congress in March. First elected in 2001, Miller never drew less than 68 percent of the vote in this deeply conservative district.
Gaetz, whose father serves in the Florida state Senate, won the Aug. 30 GOP primary with 36 percent against six candidates.
Gaetz, a lawyer, has been a member of the Florida House since 2010, representing southern Okaloosa County. There, he rose to become chairman of the Finance and Tax Committee.
In the state House, he backed legislation mandating 50-year sentences for those convicted of raping children, seniors or the disabled, which was enacted, and a bill allowing open carry of firearms, which didn’t pass.
Gaetz campaigned as an unapologetic conservative, saying in his campaign ads that he will fight against big government, cut taxes, and is “100 percent pro-life.”