Gaetz in or out of Congress

In his weekly Backroom Briefing, News Service of Florida reporter Jim Turner mentions how Congressman Matt Gaetz (Trumpican, Fort Walton Beach) might run for a statewide post. Locally, power brokers have whispered that Gaetz may resign for a gig with FoxNews, but I’m not sure that will happen.

Escambia County names being batted around as possible replacements for Gaetz include Ashton Hayward, David Morgan, Frank White, David Stafford and Alex Andrade. Cris Dosev and Mike Hill might even consider a run for the post. However, remember Okaloosa County is a powerful voting bloc, and Escambia County votes usually splinter.


By Jim Turner

Hours before Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz sent social media aflutter by trolling toward the 2022 election cycle.

Responding to a Sun Sentinel report that his name was being tossed around as a potential Republican primary challenger to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Gaetz tweeted that the only statewide Florida office he’d consider seeking would be agriculture commissioner.

“I have no interest in running against Marco Rubio for the US Senate,” Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, tweeted. “In 2022 the only statewide position I would consider running for in the current political climate is Commissioner of Agriculture. But things can change! (Not the Senate thing though).”

Gaetz, the scion of a wealthy political family who has been in Congress since 2017, is close to former President Donald Trump and represents a large area of the Panhandle that includes coastal communities, inland farmers and military bases.

Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, serves as agriculture commissioner. While she can run for re-election in 2022, Fried has said she’s “looking into” a run against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Along with governor, agriculture commissioner and U.S. senator, the other statewide offices up in 2022 are attorney general and chief financial officer. Gaetz has a law degree. But DeSantis, Rubio, Attorney General Ashley Moody and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis are all Republicans and have been loyal to Trump, with DeSantis coming close to Gaetz in public displays of admiration.

If Gaetz decides to run for agriculture commissioner, it could lead to a primary race against state Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby egg farmer who is drawing speculation about a possible statewide bid.

Gaetz has previously questioned Simpson, particularly over the implementation of an E-Verify program to check if workers are in the country legally.

When Simpson’s name was brought up online, Gaetz responded: “Paging who? (Asking for 98% of Floridians).”

Gaetz later added: “Florida deserves a Commissioner of Agriculture who doesn’t support illegal immigration. Regardless of political party.” And, “Florida deserves a Commissioner of Agriculture who will print on every weapons license: ‘The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights authorizes every American to openly bear arms.’ Regardless of party.”