In one of Florida’s most conservative congressional districts, MIAMI Rep. Matt Gaetz defeated his Republican primary rival on Tuesday, according to projections from NBC News, as a result of voters’ decision not to call for a federal sex crimes probe against him.
Gaetz, a self-described firebrand who was supported by former President Donald Trump and who in 2019 oversaw the transition team for Governor Ron DeSantis, spent $1.1 million on regional TV commercials to drive home his MAGA bona fides. Challenger Mark Lombardo questioned Gaetz’s character in three advertisements for a minimum cost of $500,000.
But ultimately, Gaetz, who was a state legislator from the Panhandle region until he earned his congressional seat in 2016, triumphed thanks to Trump’s endorsement, his strong local support, and his persistent campaigning in the district.
The district, which Trump won by more than 33 percentage points in 2020, is dominated by him.
Without providing any proof, Lombardo implied in one commercial that Gaetz was an informant who finally provided the FBI with information to carry out a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on August 8.
The advertisement also made reference to Gaetz’s alleged involvement in the sex trafficking of a minor, which has dogged him since last year, and it erroneously implied that Trump had not endorsed Gaetz. According to NBC News, federal investigators are investigating into whether Gaetz had a sexual contact with a juvenile he paid to travel with him and whether he and a friend used the internet to find people they could pay for sex. Gaetz has refuted all allegations and has not been charged with any crimes.
Gaetz was so irritated by the Trump endorsement attack that he badgered a Business Insider reporter on Twitter for using it in a piece. Trump had previously verbally endorsed him. Later, he tweeted the wording of a new endorsement from Trump.
Gaetz was unavailable for comment.
No one from the Justice Department could be reached for comment on the sex trafficking case. Usually, the government doesn’t file charges 90 days before an election. Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend appeared before a grand jury inquiring into him in January, but since then there hasn’t been much progress in the case.
Rebekah Jones, a former employee of the state Health Department, is Gaetz’s rival and is expected to prevail in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District on Tuesday night, according to NBC News. Due to concerns about her party affiliation, Jones’ name was temporarily taken off the ballot; however, a court of appeals reinstated her the day before the election.
Jones, who worked on creating the Covid dashboard for the state, charged DeSantis’s team with faking Covid data in 2020. Insufficient evidence had been discovered to back her assertions, according to a report from the state Health Department’s Office of Inspector General, which also cleared some of the medical professionals she had accused of wrongdoing in another occasion.
Jones was sacked in May 2020 for what the authorities claimed was insubordination, and she now faces an felony charge of accessing and downloading private Health Department data.
Jones claims that her refusal to modify data led to her termination, and according to her attorney’s statement in May, she still wants to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
It’s easy: Her lawyer stated at the time that she was fired for refusing to alter Covid data, noting that his client had sent a lengthy reply to the Health Department this year when it disclosed its preliminary, secret conclusions.