The common theme among these candidates who caught Gaetz’s attention: They are all ultra-conservatives running in primaries against candidates supported by McCarthy.
McCarthy threw his weight into competitive races early in the 2024 cycle, including supporting State Rep. Heidi Kasama in NV-03 and former State Rep. Craig Riedel in OH-09, both of which are prime targets for national Republicans. McCarthy also boosted Bost’s reelection bid and spoke out against Bailey for challenging the incumbent.
Gaetz rejected the suggestion that he was supporting the candidates because they are running against McCarthy-backed Republicans.
“It’s old news. Mike Johnson’s speaker now,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz has long clashed with McCarthy, refusing to vote for him in the marathon presidential vote in January. Gaetz then led the charge in ousting McCarthy from his leadership post earlier this year, throwing the House into chaos for nearly a month and drawing the ire of other members of his party. It was a blow to establishment Republicans, who were already struggling with their slim majority in the House.
Now, with McCarthy retiring – just months after being voted out of office – Gaetz is going after some of his chosen candidates.
The quality of candidates nearly cost Republicans a majority in the House in 2022, with some far-right candidates losing key races. Majewski was one of those candidates, plagued by the Democratic representative’s ads. Marcy Kaptur calling him an “extremist” for his presence on the Capitol grounds on January 6, 2021. Another was Bailey, who Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker called too extreme during his 2022 gubernatorial run.
IL-12 is a safe Republican district, so the winner of the primary will likely have a smooth path to the general election — although a messy primary is not a good idea for Republicans, who are still trying to rehabilitate their image after the presidency drama earlier this year. year. But OH-09 and NV-03 are both battlegrounds, and losses in those districts could cost the party its majority.
Gaetz brushed aside questions about support for conservative Republicans who could lose the general election.
“Primaries are a very important part of the political process,” he said. “It shows the direction the party is going. »
A spokesperson for McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment. The NRC declined to comment.
Republican leaders have already been upset after Gaetz helped shake up the OH-09 race.
Riedel was one of the top hires to hire Kaptur, winning the approval of House leadership over the summer. But after an audio clip surfaced of him calling former President Donald Trump “arrogant” and saying the party needed to “go in a different direction,” he faces a tough primary — one that could end up raising Majewski anyway.
Gaetz supported Majewski in November and this month
shared the audio clip of Riedel, writing that he is a “RINO never Trump.” In the following days, Riedel lost support. representative Max Miller canceled
his approval because of his comments. The senator J.D. Vance announced his support for Majewski, as did Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
After sharing the clip, Riedel
endorsed Trump and blamed Gaetz for pulling a “stunt.” (Gaetz has denied any involvement in the recording.) Republican leaders then rushed to recruit state Rep. Derek Merrin for the race. With Riedel remaining, it is possible that Merrin and Riedel could split the anti-Majewski vote and send it to the general election – a similar scenario to what happened last year.
The incident demonstrates the domino effect that Gaetz’s involvement can have, given his prominence — and the headache it can cause for national Republicans.
Gaetz said he does not normally support candidates until they are on the ballot, an exception he made for Majewski before Ohio’s Dec. 20 filing deadline because he said he “got totally screwed by the Air Force.” An Associated Press report a month before the 2022 election indicated that Majewski, an Air Force veteran, had never deployed to Afghanistan as he had suggested, and that he had also misinterpreted his professional career. This caused national Republicans to withdraw their support for him. Majewski lost to Kaptur by 13 points in 2022.
“We are proud to have the support of Congressman Gaetz and many of his colleagues on the Hill and I look forward to working alongside these America First leaders to address the issues important to people of the 9th State of Ohio, including energy domination and securing the border. “Majewski said in a statement.
Gaetz made a distinction between an endorsement and
show support for a candidate, as he did for Bailey in his race against Bost. After Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) endorsed Bailey, Gaetz shared it on X, formerly known as Twitter, writing “Bailey > Bost.” Gaetz
continued to vocally support Bailey, even without formally approving it. (There were high tensions between Gaetz and Bost during the fight for the presidency.)
shared a video of Helgelian speaking about his border policy, urging his supporters to “send reinforcements like this”. He also has
shared its launch video and an accompanying fundraising appeal.