Okaloosa Political Leaders Join Forces for a Common Cause

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FORT WALTON BEACH-- A group of Okaloosa County political and community leaders, as well as voters, gathered at the parking lot of the county's water and sewer department Friday to air what they call some dirty laundry.

"It appears our state legislators are bringing the nasty, deceitful and misrepresented, misleading and false statements of the Federal and State level politics to our homefront, a new low for County politics and we don't like it," said John Whitley, Okaloosa County Democratic State Committeeman.

The controversy stems from actions by state representative Matt Gaetz.

Gaetz has publicly stated he would work to defeat all of Okaloosa County's incumbent county commissioners.

But the party leaders say he's using his political connections to special interest group to accomplish his goal, supporting non-incumbents.

"The Northwest Florida Daily News has focused on a Tallahassee PAC which has local ties, but there are also PAC'S influencing our local election with no local ties at all. The outside influence puts a damper on the phrase "We the People," said Gaye Ellis, Okaloosa County GOP Executive Committee.

The immediate goal of Friday's gathering was to bring the issue to the attention of voters' and help educate them.

"We want everything to be equal and to ensure that local elections are decided by the local citizens," said Raymond Nelson, Okaloosa County NAACP President.

"I wanted to show Bipartisan support for keeping our local elections local and to keep big money out of our local politics," said Beth Blankenship, Okaloosa Democrats.

"Every PAC in the State of Florida is required to register with the Florida Division of Elections. When you see that an ad is paid for by "Friends of Darth Vader," go to the Division of Elections website and find out who 's behind it," said Ellis.

The long-term goal is to push for more campaign reforms to the state's elections laws.

We called Matt Gaetz's office for his response, but he did not return our call.