Though ‘pre-endorsed’ for governor by Donald Trump Jr., congressman says his ‘sole focus’ now is on defeating the stopgap funding bill
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) refused to confirm a published report that he intends to run for governor of Florida in 2026.
But neither did Mr. Gaetz issue a denial, saying only that his immediate focus is on the appropriations battle and the 2024 election.
Questions about a potential Gaetz candidacy were prompted by a Sept. 18 NBC report quoting an unnamed Florida Republican lobbyist as saying that, during a political event the previous day in Tallahassee, “Gaetz was telling people to basically expect him to be in.”
Having returned to Capitol Hill, the 41-year-old congressman redirected attention to the ongoing battle within his own party over 2024 appropriations.
“My objective this week is to defeat this CR [continuing resolution],” Mr. Gaetz told reporters, referring to H.R. 5525, Continuing Appropriations and Border Security Enhancement Act, 2024.
“I feel like I do not have an objective beyond that. I’m trying to defeat the CR.”
Asked on Sept. 19 when he intended to launch his gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Gaetz told The Epoch Times, “I’m not interested in any of that. Right now, my sole focus is on defeating the CR. And when it comes to politics, I have no goals beyond 2024.”
Trump Jr. and Gaetz
The next Florida gubernatorial election will take place on Nov. 3, 2026.
Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection in 2020 by nearly 19 percentage points, the largest margin of victory in four decades. But Mr. DeSantis is term-limited from seeking reelection in 2026, opening the field for GOP hopefuls.
Mr. DeSantis is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination where he trails former President Donald Trump by more than 40 percentage points.
Donald Trump Jr. raised the possibility of a gubernatorial run by Mr. Gaetz following the first Republican presidential debate in August. In a video interview with the congressman, Mr. Trump asked if he would “actually do the job” if elected governor. The comment was likely, at least in part, a jab at Mr. DeSantis for his frequent absences from the state while campaigning.
“I would definitely enjoy that job so much I would never leave it if I ever got that opportunity,” Mr. Gaetz replied.
“I am going to pre-endorse Matt Gaetz for governor of Florida right now,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he would “campaign aggressively” for the congressman.
Republicans have held the governorship in Florida for nearly a quarter-century, beginning in January 1999, when Gov. Jeb Bush began his first of two terms. Mr. DeSantis was preceded by Gov. Rick Scott, who held the office for eight years and then ran successfully for the U.S. Senate.
John Morgan, a Florida trial attorney, said Mr. Gaetz is “100 percent in” the race, according to NBC News.
“I think Gaetz is an instant frontrunner, and from what I hear, he’s already won the Trump primary,” Mr. Morgan said.
“He will be running in a large field. He could win with 30 percent. Trump’s endorsement alone gets him that.”
Gaetz later told NBC News that is focused on President Trump’s presidential campaign and said that Florida already has “an outstanding governor.”
The Appropriations Battle
In Washington, the four-term congressman is fighting to defeat the Continuing Appropriations and Border Security Enhancement Act, 2024, which was introduced on Sept. 17 by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a Gaetz associate and member of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC).
The bill was co-sponsored by HFC chair, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and a coalition of members from the Main Street Caucus, led by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.)
The bill is a continuing resolution that would extend government funding through Oct. 31 to avoid a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
The measure would cut most non-defense discretionary spending by 8 percent while leaving Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs funding at the current levels. The bill also includes certain border security measures passed by the House in May as H.R. 2, Secure the Border Act, but not considered by the Senate.
Mr. Gaetz and a dozen or more GOP members have voiced objections to the CR as essentially extending Democrats’ spending priorities into the next fiscal year.
“Everyone tries to cast me as some sort of partisan radical because I think the individual agencies of government ought to have their bills considered under open amendment,” Mr. Gaetz said, referring to the process of having bills considered one-by-one on the House floor with members given the opportunity to debate them and offer amendments.
“That this was promised. It has not been delivered. And I’m not going to have some continuation of this Biden government all wrapped up where we voted all up or down at once.”
Asked about Mr. Donalds’ action in introducing the CR, Mr. Gaetz said, “I am a big fan of Byron Donalds. He’s my friend, and I think he’s terribly misguided.”
A floor vote on the continuing resolution is expected this week.