Not that long ago…it’s been a debate for a hundred and fifty years but as recently as 1982 it was a political issue.
This article is from the Ocala Star-Banner. It quotes Rep. Tom Tobiassen then a Republican (Tobiassen switched to the Democratic Party that same year and served until 1992 in the House as a Democrat) as saying too many Yankees were in the rest of the state and Northwest Florida would be better off as part of Alabama.
The Gulf Beaches from Gulf Breeze through Panama City are important to Florida’s economy and culture so thankfully they have still not become part of Alabama. The natural beauty in Northwest Florida is best protected by being in our state and not Alabama.
As for the people of that part of the state, everything west of the Apalachicola River is different than the rest of the state. While many from southeast Florida characterize all of the state north of Ocala as similar the western Panhandle is different than the rest of north Florida.
Don Gaetz is the first Legislative leader from that part of the state in sometime to avoid ethical difficulty. Speaker Ray Sansom was forced to resign and Speaker Bo Johnson went to prison after his term was up. W.D. Childers, longtime Senate power and Senate President went to jail though his conviction was later overturned.
The area has seldom had competitive partisan elections. In the 1980s, Republicans often failed to field candidates in many of the legislative seats in the area. I recall one election (maybe it was 1982 or 1984 which were around the apex of Democratic control of the legislature in the reapportionment era) when the GOP fielded only one candidate west of Jacksonville in either House or Senate. Now it is the Democrats who often pass on elections in this part of the state.