The two contenders for Florida’s first congressional seat will face off this week in their first debate.

The University of West Florida will host the Florida District 1 congressional debate on Thursday, Sept. 15. At 6 p.m at the UWF conference center.

Both candidates are in their early 30s and one of them will replace retiring incumbent Jeff Miller, 57, who has been in office for 15 years.

Republican Matt Gaetz, who captured 37 percent of the primary vote last month, will debate Steven Specht, who ran unopposed on the Democratic ticket.

Gaetz, 34, is a current state representative, first elected in 2010. Gaetz graduated from Florida State University in 2003 and from The College of William and Mary in 2007 with a juris doctor.

Specht, 33, is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Specht graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism and holds a masters in international relations. Specht most recently graduated from the Florida State University College of Law, with a specialization in constitutional and international law.

The district, which includes all of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton counties, as well as a portion of Holmes County, leans heavily Republican; a Democrat hasn’t represented the district in more than 20 years and the district hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1960. The Cook Political Report gives the district a Partisan Voting Index of R+22, meaning Republicans have a 22-percentage-point advantage over Democrats, the highest in the state.

The event will be open to the public and is hosted by the Scenic Hills Country Club, BLAB TV and the Pensacola Rotaract Club.


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