HD 6 GOP Primary pits establishment favorite Griff Griffitts against newcomer Brian Clowdus

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With Rep. Jay Trumbull term-limited, it opened up a House seat in deep red Bay County. After the qualifying dust settled, the only two contestants were Phillip “Griff” Griffitts, a Bay County Commissioner with public service pedigree in the area, and Brian Clowdus, a newcomer to Florida bringing a self-described “MAGA” challenge to the establishment.

Griffitts, 50, is a native of Bay County and his father, Phillip Griffitts, Sr., was Mayor of Panama City Beach from 1982 to 2000. He’s served on numerous local boards — the Bay County Planning Commission, Bay County Tourist Development Council, Bay Medical Sacred Heart, to name a few — and has the backing of nearly every major Republican official in the county, including Trumbull and the Sheriff.

Clowdus, 41, moved to Panama City in 2020 from Atlanta, where he founded a production company after leaving as artistic director of another theater company. When he arrived, he volunteered for former President Donald Trump’s campaign, knocking on doors and aiming to get out the vote.

The ostensible GOP Primary matchup of a Trump-aligned political rookie against an establishment-backed public official has a wrinkle to it — Democrats and third-party and no party affiliated voters can cast ballots too.

Because there’s no other candidate in the race, the Primary is open to non-Republicans. The district covers all of Bay County, where 54% of the 122,878 registered voters are Republicans. Democrats and non-major party voters could make a difference in a close race.

The race, however, isn’t expected to be particularly close.

Internal polling from Griffitts’ campaign at the end of July showed him with a 52% to 11% lead over Clowdus, with 30% unsure. Brett Doster, Griffitts’ campaign advisor, has noted races often get tighter toward the finish line, but acknowledged they feel comfortable heading into the home stretch ahead of the Aug. 23 Primary.

In the latter days of the race, Griffitts is likely to make his sizable financial advantage count, as he has throughout the summer.

Through Aug. 5, Griffitts has raised $350,000 and spent $247,000, while Clowdus, after a slow start where he spent less than $200 in June, has raised $76,000 and spent $62,000.

Clowdus, though, has stressed the work his campaign has done despite the gap in funds, such as knocking on 18,000 doors throughout the district.

Both candidates have emphasized their conservative bona fides, with Griffitts focusing more on kitchen table issues, such as lowering property insurance costs through better building codes and reducing litigation, keeping taxes low and ensuring all affordable housing dollars go towards affordable housing programs.

Clowdus has embraced his outsider status, and talked about the need to reject the establishment and increase transparency and “put people first.”

The winner of the Primary will take office shortly after the Nov. 8 General Election.

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