Originally Posted on PNJ.com by Will Isern
Frank White doesn't rattle off the typical Republican talking points when explaining why he wants voters to send him to Tallahassee.
Sure, he believes in smaller government and lower taxes and all the rest, but the 37-year-old business attorney and investment manager who recently announced he would pursue state Rep. Mike Hill's District 2 seat is championing an issue no other candidates are even talking about. White's top priority, he says, is making sure the tens of millions in BP oil spill money promised to Northwest Florida comes here and isn't siphoned off to other parts of the state.
The Oil Spill Economic Recovery Act established Triumph Gulf Coast, a nonprofit corporation, to oversee 75 percent of the $2 billion settlement with BP for the economic damage sustained in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Triumph's mission is to enhance and diversify the economies in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties.
However, House Appropriations Committee Chairman and Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran said during the last legislative session that giving the money directly to Triumph would be a violation of the Florida Constitution and that the funds will have to be appropriated from the state treasury, leading some to worry that legislators could take the money away from Northwest Florida.
White wants to make sure that doesn't happen.
"I want to go and ensure that those funds go to restore our community to diversify and strengthen our economy," White said. "The oil spill was not in Miami, it was not in Orlando, it was on the beaches from Perdido Key to Panama City. And the harm that was done wasn't just economic. For people who grew up on the Gulf going to the beaches, it hit them on an emotional level. So it is absolutely real that that money belongs to Northwest Florida."
Issues number two and three for White are workforce development and support for veterans, active-duty military and civilian contractors. White said he hopes to support action in the Legislature that will spur economic growth and attract industry to the state.
"Good policymakers should be gardeners not engineers," White said. "They should cultivate an atmosphere of growth instead of thinking they have all the answers."
White announced his candidacy last week and has amassed more than $110,000, including a $50,000 personal loan, to fund his campaign. For now, he runs unopposed in the Republican primary and is set to face off with Democrat Ray Guillory in the Nov. 8 election. White said he plans to start putting that money to work soon to introduce himself to voters.
"There's a saying in politics that you either run scared or you run unopposed," White said. "Well I'm running scared and I'm unopposed (in the primary), so I'm going to do everything I can to knock on every door possible."
Election to the Legislature wouldn't be White's first time at a decision-making table. He is vice chairman of the Pensacola State College board of trustees, and sits on the board of directors of the Florida Development Finance Corp., Baptist Hospital, WSRE, the Pensacola MESS Hall, and Startup Weekend Pensacola. White completed Leadership Pensacola in 2011 and serves as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church.
White first eyed a run for the District 2 seat in 2013, following the death of Rep. Clay Ford. However, he determined that with little time to campaign and no name recognition he could not win. When U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller announced last month he would not seek re-election, White said the same people who had encouraged him to run in 2013 reached out and encouraged him again. District 2 includes downtown Pensacola, the southernmost part of Escambia County, west to Perdido Key, the city of Gulf Breeze in Santa Rosa County and Pensacola Beach.
White is from Amarillo, Texas, and attended Southern Methodist University for his undergraduate, law and MBA degrees. White met his wife, Stephanie, daughter of car magnate Sandy Sansing, while in law school. The couple married in 2005 and moved to Pensacola in 2010. The Whites and have three sons: twin 5-year-olds and a 3-year-old.