U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz took a big step toward a second term in Congress on Tuesday with a convincing Republican primary victory over opponents Cris Dosev and John Mills.

Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, captured just more than 65,000 of the approximately 100,000 total Republican votes cast in Florida’s First Congressional District, which encompasses Okaloosa, Walton, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.

Dosev, who announced not too long after Gaetz defeated him and several others to win a first term in office that he would try again, received about 30,500 votes and third candidate John Mills got fewer than 5,000.

“This looks like a decisive victory,” Gaetz said as the counting was being completed. “I'm very grateful to the voters for their confidence in me.”

Gaetz criticized Dosev for running “an exclusively negative campaign,” and said it was his impression voters had made him pay the price.

"It looks like he got the result he so richly deserved," he said.

Gaetz still has to face Democrat Jennifer Zimmerman to nail down the second term, but he didn't back down from comments he made two years ago when, facing another November contest, he flatly stated Democrats could not win in Northwest Florida.

“I'm just as confident as I was in 2016 that Northwest Floridians want a conservative congressman,” he said.

During his first two years in Washington, Gaetz has proven a faithful ally to President Donald Trump, and Trump’s endorsement apparently paid dividends in ultra-conservative Northwest Florida.

 

State House of Representatives District 2

Alex Andrade defeated Greg Merk on Tuesday to secure a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

Andrade won a Republican primary by securing 60 percent of votes cast by District 2 voters, who reside in South Escambia and South Santa Rosa counties.

Andrade was elected to occupy a seat vacated by Frank White, who lost out Tuesday in a bid for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.