Congressman Joe Scarborough's resignation creates a mad rush for his District 1 seat.
By Julie S. Bettinger
Colorful U.S. Congressman Joe Scarborough -- credited with preventing the loss of military operations in the area in 1995 and more recently for winning $1.5 million for a new commerce park in Escambia -- shook up the region in May when he announced his resignation midterm, effective Sept. 6.
Candidates began lining up quickly to enter the race for his seat in District 1, which stretches from Escambia County east to Holmes and Bay counties. Among the 11 contenders: State Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, who resigned in his second term to take a shot at representing the area in Washington; Bob Condon, an attorney and Republican who lost a race against Scarborough last year; and Randy Knepper, also a Republican, who was mentioned as a strong contender because of his previous experience as an aide to U.S. Rep. Earl Hutto.
Two little-known Democrats also qualified -- Steve Briese and Chuck Lynch -- but the seat is expected to remain in the hands of the GOP. A Republican runoff Sept. 4 is fairly certain, with the special election set for Oct. 16.
Scarborough, an attorney, won the Republican primary last September with 78% of the vote. He is leaving to spend more time with his two sons, ages 13 and 10.
Besides championing military and economic development issues, Scarborough has maintained a high profile in the media ["Hot Doughnuts and a Weekly Paper," April 2000, www.FloridaTrend.com]. An avid guitarist who plays in a rock band, Scarborough led a rally in downtown Pensacola following the threat to disqualify military absentee ballots in last year's election and has appeared as a guest on CNN's Larry King Live, Crossfire and CNBC's Hardball.
Whoever wins Scarborough's seat will have to deal with the current hot issue of whether to allow drilling off the shores of northwest Florida. Scarborough, criticized by some for leaving while the issue is pressing, actually delayed his departure to avoid leaving the seat empty while the controversy over drilling rages, says Collier Merrill, a condominium developer and restaurant owner who decided not to run.
Navy Adm. Jack Fetterman, chairman of the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce, says Scarborough, who won his first term in 1994, is leaving "huge shoes to fill."
In the News
Chipley -- The Washington-Holmes Technical Center has partnered with the Florida departments of transportation and education to launch a pilot project, the first in the state, that will train technicians in the road-building industry. Engineers, consultants and contractors will be able to earn certifications required to work on Department of Transportation projects.
Fort Walton Beach -- The Fort Walton Beach metro area earned a five-star rating, the highest possible, in Expansion Management magazine's "Quality of Life Quotient." The analysis compares living and working environments in 329 areas. The magazine's rating places the Fort Walton Beach area in the top 15% in the nation.
Pensacola -- Five sites in the Pensacola region have been designated Foreign Trade Zones, including the Port of Pensacola and the Pensacola Regional Airport. Local officials say the FTZ status will make the area more attractive to companies wanting to lower their operating costs. Other FTZs in the region: Pensacola Shipyard Marine Complex, the City of Century Industrial Park and the former Drum facility.
International Paper and the Escambia County Utility Authority are teaming up to upgrade IP's wastewater system. The two are creating a pipeline to carry wastewater off site and eliminate direct surface water discharge by 2005. The goal is to remove wastewater discharges from the Perdido Escambia drainage basins and help restore Perdido Bay.
Pensacola Beach -- Fishermen were making record catches within 24 hours of the opening of the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier, which replaces the pier destroyed by Hurricane Opal in 1995. One angler caught a 52-pound cobia off the quarter-mile-long platform, the longest fishing pier in the Gulf of Mexico.
Port St. Joe -- K.L. Presnell Cos. will begin building a 62-slip marina with a 60-room motel and restaurant this fall. The nearby St. Joe Motel is also being restored by husband and wife team David and Trish Warriner. The motel, originally built in 1948, will be restored in the "Old Florida" style.
Sandestin -- Sacred Heart Health Systems of Pensacola has broken ground on its Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast, which is being built on land donated by St. Joe Co. The $40-million hospital, between Seaside and Destin, will include 44 acute-care beds and six intensive-care beds. It will employ 250 to 300 and is tentatively scheduled for completion in December 2002.
Tallahassee -- SouthWood Business Park, developed by Arvida/St. Joe, has been designated "semiconductor certified." Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and economic development officials are now working with Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College and Lively Technical Center to make higher education "semiconductor ready" to improve the area's prospects in attracting a semiconductor facility.
Florida State University's Research Foundation will be constructing an $11-million building in Innovation Park, across from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. The 80,000-sq.-ft. research facility's primary tenant will be the Center for Advanced Power Systems, which is researching and developing an all-electric ship for the Navy.