Matt Gaetz launching campaign for Florida’s 1st Congressional District

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State Rep. Matt Gaetz is ready to bring his fiery brand of northwest Florida conservatism to Washington D.C.

The Fort Walton Beach Republican is abandoning his bid for the Florida Senate and instead will run for the congressional seat now held by Republican Jeff Miller. He announced he will retire at the end of his eighth and current term.

In a release Monday morning, the 33-year-old Gaetz says “Washington’s failures have left the American people with trillions in debt, illegal immigrants sucking us dry, and attacks from Muslim terrorists rising.”

“While I planned to continue serving in the Florida Legislature, the fights we must win to save this country are in Washington,” he says. “Our Constitution is being ignored, our veterans have been abandoned, and our 2nd Amendment rights are under attack.”

Gaetz’s website — — is now fully rebranded for the Congressional seat and in federal outsider mode, bearing the slogan “Fight Washington, Restore America.”

See his new campaign video here.

In announcing the congressional campaign, Gaetz is giving up his bid to replace his father, former Senate President Don Gaetz, in the Legislature’s upper chamber. That race was shaping up to be one of the more contested battles in a heated 2016 Senate cycle which will see all 40 seats up for grabs.

Gaetz’s move comes as the latest in a series of political dominoes which have fallen since Miller announced last week he would not seek re-election in the 1st Congressional District, once held by MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough from 1995-2001. Also expected to run for the seat is state Senator Greg Evers.

Don Gaetz himself was also said to have an interest in the congressional seat. He addressed the speculation in a memo to supporters Wednesday.

Gaetz said it was an “honor to be Northwest Florida’s senator in Tallahassee. And we’ve had a pretty good run. I’m confident a real, true conservative will become a candidate and will represent our families and communities with success and with honor.”

In an interview earlier this month, the senior Gaetz told that his son “would be a strong candidate” and “his family would be 100 percent behind him and I’d knock on every door in northwest Florida for him.”

Asked whether Matt had discussed a congressional run with him, Gaetz said, “Fathers and sons don’t talk to the press about what they discuss privately.”

Matt Gaetz, first elected amid the Tea Party wave that swept the nation in 2010, works as a commercial litigator at the law firm Keefe, Anchors & Gordon.

He’s known in the Legislature as a strong debater; a supporter of disruptive technologies such as ride-booking services, including Uber; and an advocate of medical marijuana.

He was part of a bipartisan effort to implement low-THC cannabis for children who suffer from debilitating seizures and other diseases. He co-sponsored the 2014 Compassionate Use Act with Democratic state Rep. Katie Edwards, and it became the framework for the marijuana growing and delivery system currently being hashed out by the Department of Health.

Gaetz has an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association, and has supported capital punishment in Florida, which recently has been under fire by federal courts. In 2013, he sponsored the “Timely Justice Act” to reduce delays from sentencing to executions for those on Florida’s Death Row.

“Only God can judge, but we can sure set up the meeting,” Gaetz said during a floor debate on the proposal. After a challenge, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the law’s constitutionality a year later.

In his release, Gaetz said that when “Donald Trump is President, Northwest Florida’s voice in Congress must ring loud and clear for bold, conservative reform. Mine will.”

He added, “Whether it was banning Obamacare-funded abortions, blocking attempts to repeal Stand Your Ground, cutting taxes by over $1 billion, or supporting military families, I’ve been an effective leader in the Florida House. I’m ready to fight and win for Northwest Florida in Congress.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.