Sep 18, 2023 - Politics & Policy

"Overblown clickbait": Gaetz slams report he'll run for Florida governor

Gaetz speaks at a Congressional hearing

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing on July 26. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) on Monday slammed a new report that he plans to run for Florida governor — saying he's focused on backing former President Trump's 2024 campaign.

Why it matters: A Trump loyalist and conservative firebrand in the U.S. House, Gaetz making a gubernatorial run would set him up to try potentially succeeding Gov. Ron DeSantis, his ex-ally running for president against Trump.

  • NBC News reported Monday that Gaetz is widely expected to run for Florida governor, citing four people at an event Sunday in Tallahassee for incoming state House Speaker, GOP Rep. Danny Perez.
  • Gaetz denies it, telling Axios: "I ran into dozens of former colleagues from my days in the state legislature. They encouraged me relentlessly to consider returning to Florida. I wasn't focused on any of that talk, though."
  • A longtime Republican lobbyist and Florida trial attorney were among those who said they think Gaetz will run for governor at the Florida Republican event, per NBC.
  • The field is expected to be crowded since DeSantis, who was easily re-elected in 2022, is facing term limits.

Catch up quick: Gaetz, who is in his fourth term in the House, has said his political priority is campaigning for former President Trump in the 2024 presidential election was previously a DeSantis ally as a top campaign adviser to the governor during the 2018 election.

  • The representative has since fallen out with the governor and stood behind Trump for president in 2024.
  • Gaetz has regularly pushed baseless 2020 election fraud claims and defended Trump's alleged interference in the results.
  • In 2022, he had mentioned the Capitol insurrection on social media more than any other Republican in Congress.
  • "We're proud of the work we did on January 6 to make legitimate arguments about election integrity," he said that year.
  • Gaetz was one of six House Republicans who sought presidential pardons in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, according to the testimonies of former Trump White House aides.

Flashback: In 2021, Gaetz privately told confidants that he was considering leaving Congress for a job at Newsmax.

Of note: Donald Trump Jr. and his fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle pre-endorsed Gaetz for Florida governor in a video from August after the first Republican presidential primary debate.

  • "I will work on that campaign aggressively," Trump Jr. said.
  • Gaetz said in the video he was not in the race yet but joked about signing the couple up as his first and second volunteers.
  • In a jab at DeSantis, whose time in office would be cut short if he were elected president, Trump Jr. asked Gaetz if he would promise to "at least be governor."
  • "I would definitely enjoy that job so much I would never leave it, if I ever got that opportunity," he said.

Go deeper: Matt Gaetz threatens McCarthy with daily attempt to remove him as speaker

Axios' Juliegrace Brufke contributed to this report.

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