Two members of the Florida State House of Representatives, one Republican and one Democrat, lost their respective primaries on Tuesday
Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola), an Air Force veteran and insurance agent, lost his primary to Michelle Salzman, an Army veteran and the former president of the Escambia County Council of PTAs, in House District 1, losing 53%-46%. Salzman is favored to win election in the heavily Republican district this fall.
Last year, Hill found himself under intense criticism, and even angered Republican leaders in the lower chamber, after he laughed at a political event when a constituent asked him if he could file legislation that would impose the death penalty on men who have sex with other men.
Hill made the comments during a 2019 event hosted by the group Women for Responsible Legislation, a group that purports to be nonpartisan. During his remarks, Hill was asked why one of his fellow Republicans had co-sponsored the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people.
He said that he didn’t know why any Republican would co-sponsor such a bill, but that the measure doesn’t reflect the values of his constituents. Hill also said being gay was a choice and, therefore, in his view, gay people did not deserve protected status under the law.
An audience member then said: “In 1st Corinthians, it says that a man who has an affair with another man will be put to death.” Hill laughed, replying, “It says that in the Old Testament, too.” Another questioner then asked Hill if he would introduce legislation to put gay people to death. Hill laughed again, saying, “I wonder how that would go over.”
After the comments became public, Hill initially resisted calls to apologize, but later issued a statement apologizing for his “tone” and claiming that the premise of the question was inaccurate, because 1 Corinthians doesn’t prescribe death for anyone.
“I apologize for not directly responding to the fact that the premise for this question was inaccurate. I deeply regret how the tone of my response to a constituent was received at this event,” he said. “I believe that no matter one’s race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, economic status or otherwise, that all lives are created equal in the image of God.”
Across the state, in Palm Beach County’s District 88, State Rep. Al Jacquet (D-Riviera Beach) lost his primary to Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy, 43% to 26%. Due to the district’s heavy Democratic lean, Hardy is favored win in November against Republican Danielle Madsen and unaffiliated candidate Rubin Anderson.
Jacquet came under intense criticism from LGBTQ advocates and fellow Democrats after he attacked Hardy, who was raised by two mothers, by calling him a “batty boy,” a homophobic slur common in Caribbean nations and among Caribbean-American communities, who comprise a significant population in South Florida.
Jacquet, who was born in St. Maartens, a Caribbean island, posted an hourlong video on his personal Facebook page in which he ranted about a story in a local newspaper titled “”Where is Al Jacquet?” that questioned his residence, his commitment to his job, how accessible he’s made himself to his constituents, and questions around alleged election violations.
“Where I’m at? I’m running in 2020, baby. Re-election, 100 percent. Where you at?” Jacquet said in the video. “I hear they got ‘Sleepy Hardy.’ That’s all good. That’s the union boy. The batty boy union boy.”
Jacquet had previously been criticized by teachers’ unions for voting for a bill to expand the state’s school voucher program, which allows private schools to enrich themselves with taxpayer dollars.
Following outcry over the remarks, Jacquet apologized, saying: “In the heat of the moment, I said something I should not have said. I apologize for my words that have offended some of my colleagues.”
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