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Matt Gaetz altercation with Parkland parents fuels Crowdpac fundraiser

An testy exchange last week turned into a fundraising narrative.

A Crowdpac fundraiser for an as-yet-unknown Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz appears on track to pass its $50,000 goal.

A fund launched last week attracted donors with the #MakeMattPay hashtag on Twitter.

Gaetz’s sin? He clashed publicly at a House hearing with parents of children slain at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last year.

At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Gaetz suggested a border wall to stop migrants would more effectively curb gun violence than would background checks. Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin died in the shooting, objected loudly, and Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime also perished in Parkland, joined him.

“I’ve witnessed three interruptions of my time by the same individual,” Gaetz said, while requesting if Oliver could be ejected from the hearing.

The testy exchange went viral.

The Crowdpac fund quickly set up a $50,000 goal to fund the eventual Democratic nominee in Florida’s 1st Congressional District, which Gaetz represents. As of midday Wednesday, $45,965 has come in, much of it through suggested donations of $20.20.

The effort got boosts from social-media savvy activists, including David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland shooting with nearly a million Twitter followers. He tweeted a link to the Crowdpac fundraiser on Thursday.

No candidate has yet filed to challenge Gaetz’ 2020 re-election bid.

But it will likely take more money and perhaps a seismic demographic shift in Florida’s Panhandle to make the House race competitive.

Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, won re-election to his second term overwhelmingly in November. He defeated Democrat Jennifer Zimmerman with 67 percent of the vote to her 32 percent.

Moreover, he spent most of his campaign time on the trail elsewhere in Florida supporting close ally Ron DeSantis in his successful gubernatorial bid.

Zimmerman over the whole cycle raised a little more than $65,000 and saw little outside help.

Gaetz spent nearly $1.3 million on his re-election effort in 2018. His campaign account still had about $142,000 in cash on hand as of the end of the year.

The Republican so far shows little concern about the fundraiser, and in fact retweeted a link to the fundraiser himself on Thursday.

“Thank you for raising funds for my 2020 dem opponent,” he wrote. “One question: Who is it?”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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