Two North Florida congressional candidates are hoping to reach voters who are turned off by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Democrats Steve Specht and Walt Dartland are running in the predominantly conservative Florida Panhandle, Specht in District 1 and Dartland in District 2.
Both are military veterans, and want to streamline government spending, popular issues among Republicans. Specht hopes voters look beyond his party affiliation.
“We are sick and tired of being told that we are unpatriotic and that we don’t care about the military or veterans and don’t care about this country. We are patriotic. We may disagree with others on the visions for this country. But darn it, we have served this country and we are ready to fight for this country at home and in Washington,” Specht said.
Walt Dartland says Donald Trump's controversial candidacy could encourage conservative voters to cross party lines.
"I think there is a golden moment here that happened similar to 1964 when we had Goldwater. If you remember what happened there, the democrats swept the area. I think we have been fortunate to have someone like Trump running because that's going to make a big difference for each of us when we run," Dartland said.
Dartland's competitor, Republican Neal Dunn of Panama City recently appeared on stage at a Trump rally there. Specht's opponent, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach is also aligning himself closely with his party's presidential candidate.
But the Panhandle's demographics cannot be ignored. According to state numbers, there are twice as many Republicans as Democrats in Speckt’s Congressional District 1. Meanwhile Congressional District 2 has an estimated 197,000 Republicans, compared to 181,000 Democrats.