Panhandle Republicans Pumped Up for November Election

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Republicans don't get to vote in next week's presidential primary, but that's because they already have a candidate.

George W. Bush is up for re-election, which excites area republicans, and the improving economy is just one reason why.

Julie Hilton is a liaison for the Federal Reserve here in the Panhandle, and as a part of her job she interviews, about 50 local business owners a month to find out how President Bush's economic policies have affected them.

"What I'm hearing is that the tax cuts, as well as the investment incentives for small businesses has been a strong encouragement to growth in our area," Julie Hilton says.

But Bush's democratic contenders intend to use the economy against Bush this November, and the jobless rate will be their avenue of attack. In fact, there have been more jobs lost during the Bush administration than any other administration since Herbert Hoover's.

Julie Hilton says the Panhandle has not been as negatively effective as the rest of the nation.

"We are a community in a super growth period, so businesses I've spoken to are looking for qualified workers, and one of the challenges is finding workers with expertise they need. I think we are much better off than other people in the Southeast and U.S.," Hilton says.

Local republican leaders agree and say other issues will dominate local voters decision.

"I do believe in Bay County, I'm not saying for the rest of the state or even the rest of the nation, but for Bay County I think values is number one. Second is military. Whether we're preserving the military we have," Bobby Roberts, Bay County's Republican Committee Chairman, says.