Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

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Dosev-Gaetz Rematch

By Duwayne Escobedo

Last year, Cris Dosev came in third to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in the crowded Republican primary to replace incumbent Jeff Miller in the first congressional district. He wants a rematch when the 35-year-old Gaetz tries to win a second term in 2018.

Gaetz won the 2016 GOP primary with 35,689 votes, 36.1 percent. The late State Sen. Greg Evers trailed the Fort Walton Beach attorney by 14.3 percentage points with 21,540 votes, narrowly besting political newcomer Dosev who received 20,610 votes, 20.9 percent.

Republicans Rebekah Bydlak, Brian Frazier, Mark Wichern and James Zumwalt split the rest of the votes. Bydlak and Zumwalt tied for fourth-place with 7.8 percent of the primary vote.

The primary race was created when long-time Congressman Miller announced in March 2016 that he would not seek another term. Gaetz, who had been running for his father’s Florida Senate seat, immediately jumped into the race. He raised $934,817 for the GOP primary, which included a $100,000 personal loan to his political action committee, Friends of Matt Gaetz. Gaetz quickly became the frontrunner, although Evers polled very well across the district.

Dosev ran an aggressive campaign in the six-month race. He loaned his campaign $395,000 and raised another $87,698.

A Bombardier/Navigator on an A-6 Intruder, Dosev served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, which included a deployment during Desert Shield/Storm. Dosev compiled more than 1,300 flight hours and 30 combat missions.  He has been a real estate developer for more than 20 years. He purchased a home in Pensacola in 2005 and moved his family down in 2009.

During the congressional debates, Dosev described himself as a Reagan-style Republican.

“Ronald Reagan imbued most of the qualities that Americans find honorable in a statesman like he was,” said Dosev. “He understood the place of America in the world. We were that shining city upon the hill that the rest of the world looked upon for not only guidance but as the goal.”

He often challenged Gaetz.

“When you talk about killing Muslim terrorists let me tell you what, you’re not going to be killing any Muslim terrorists,” said Dosev in the last debate before the August 2016 primary. “My son is with Third Battalion Sixth Marines. He may be killing Muslim terrorists, but let me tell you when folks talk about these things and the way you’ve discussed it both in your ads and in the paper are irresponsible and juvenile. We’re not playing ‘Call of Duty’ here. This is serious business, and people that have been in this business understand it to be so.”

Second Time’s A Charm
The challenges didn’t win the crowded race for Dosev, but he overcame much of his lack of name-recognition to place in the top three. This time he will have a year to campaign before the 2018 GOP primary. He believes he will give Gaetz a strong fight.

“In the previous match there wasn’t a clear selection for folks,” Dosev said. “There were so many people in the race.”

As he did in 2016, Dosev believes that his military experience will help his rematch because the military in Northwest Florida employs more than 178,700. Nearly 126,000 veterans have retired to the panhandle.

“The most significant issue has to be my experience in military service and understanding national security,” said Dosev. “(Gaetz) has been a state legislator and congressional rep, which have nothing to do with war or military operations.”

Dosev also believes he can pick up the 21,540 votes that the late Greg Evers received in the 2016 primary, which would have put Dosev ahead of Gaetz. He attended the recent funeral for Evers, a former state lawmaker, who died in a car accident.

“Evers did a magnificent job,” the 50-year-old Dosev said. “He was principled and mature and looked at things and dealt with them in a common sense way.”

Dosev filed to run for the District 1 congressional seat on Aug. 15. He plans to make a public announcement of his candidacy within 45 days.

Congressman Gaetz filed for re-election in February, but he has not talked much about his re-election bid. His name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Florida Attorney General.

On “Pensacola Speaks” last month, Gaetz said, “These 2018 races are so far away we should all be focused on doing the jobs we’re currently in and currently elected to do. And I think if we had a little more progress and a little less politics, it would be good for the state and for the country.”

Dosev hopes to make the 2018 GOP primary a two-candidate race against Gaetz.  However, John Mills of Miramar Beach pre-filed in June to run as a Republican. In 2016, Mills dropped out the race.

“I’ve told people that I took a good, serious look and needed to take another shot at this,” he said. “I want to make this a one-on-one match. Our message resonated with people. I am seen as a viable candidate.”