With or without Ron DeSantis, race for Florida's Sixth Congressional District will heat up - Florida Politics

With or without Ron DeSantis, race for Florida’s Sixth Congressional District will heat up

Will U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis run for re-election in Florida’s 6th Congressional District? That question is still unanswered — word for some time has been that DeSantis will run statewide in 2018, and he currently plans to make an announcement early next year.

Those watching this district may experience a sense of déjà vu; recall that in 2016, DeSantis was an active candidate to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Once Rubio decided to run for re-election, DeSantis ran for — and won — re-election to the House.

What does 2018 hold? Even with the seat not open at this point, jockeying — and pushback — have begun for candidates.

The field of potential candidates in the post-DeSantis era includes a number of compelling names on both sides of the aisle.

One potential GOP hopeful, former Special Forces Lt. Mike Waltz, already is taking heat from a St. Augustine Republican activist named Bob Smith.

Waltz, a Stanton High School graduate living currently in St. Augustine Beach, has an impressive resume with data points that took him far beyond Northeast Florida, including stints as Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior adviser for South Asia and Counterterrorism and director for Afghanistan Policy within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

An email Smith sent this weekend eschews those details, instead spotlighting a video that Waltz made during the 2016 presidential primaries for the American Future Fund. Waltz excoriated President Donald Trump, who did not serve in the military, for “never having served this country a day in his life.”

“All Donald Trump has served is himself,” Waltz said. “Don’t let Donald Trump fool you. Look into his record, and stop Trump now.”

Smith charges that Waltz “moved to the district from Washington D.C. … a Jeb Bush supporter who went on TV and insulted our president.”

Waltz has become a strong supporter of the Trump agenda, both on Twitter and on Fox News.

Florida Politics talked to Waltz Monday, asking if he has changed, President Trump has changed, or circumstances have changed.

Waltz noted that his statements were made “during the primaries,” and that he spoke “on the heels of what Trump said about POWs” during the primaries.

(Infamously, Trump said that he “liked [soldiers] who weren’t captured” during a 2015 harangue targeting John McCain.)

Having himself been “targeted for capture by the Taliban,” Waltz felt — especially in the pitched context of the primary — that it was necessary to “stand up for POWs.”

“Once Trump became the presidential nominee,” Waltz said that he’s been “on board.”

Waltz lauded the “fantastic job” Trump has done as commander in chief, noting that the president is “letting [soldiers] do their jobs,” leading to soaring morale.

Waltz also asserted that the “most respected generals in the military” were helping Trump make decisions, adding that he himself — contrary to assertions — is “not a Never Trumper” and “never signed those petitions.”

Waltz, and those advising him, also question the timing of the moves against him — suggesting that they are orchestrated by a Republican candidate who has already jumped in — Navy veteran John Ward.

Ward, a multimillionaire who had pledged to have a million dollars in his campaign account by January, bills himself as “a Ronald Reagan Republican … running for Congress because I believe that Washington needs more ‘get-it-done outsiders’ who will fight for individual liberties and protect our freedoms.”

Ward vows “to end the do nothing, business-as-usual ways of Washington.”

Regardless of how the Republican side of the ballot shakes out, there will be at least one Democrat in the mix who has already started an impressive run.

Ambassador Nancy Soderberg raised $336,000 in her first quarter in the race, and she looks likely to add to that total this quarter — with at least one fundraiser planned in Jacksonville.

Though DeSantis’ eventual decision looms over this race — both for would-be Republican challengers, Soderberg and other Democrats — what is clear is that a district that went big for DeSantis in 2016 is perceived to be in play this cycle.

The money will be especially in play on the GOP side of the ledger, where the winning candidate will have a seven-figure war chest — and lots of outside help.

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