‘Lifelong Republican’ turned Democrat faces long odds against Matt Gaetz

Matt Gaetz_Phil Ehr
Phil Ehr would be the first Democrat to represent CD 1 since 1995 if elected.

“Immature, dishonorable and a bad leader.”

Those are the words Democrat challenger Phil Ehr has used to describe incumbent Congressman Matt Gaetz. Ehr’s critique is hardly remarkable, particularly in this era of gloves-off politics. Perhaps more remarkable, however, is the way Ehr has portrayed himself to the voters who elected Gaetz in 2017.

“I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country,” Ehr said during the 2020 Democratic National Convention. “That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen but these are not normal times.”

In his bid for Congressional District 1, Ehr will need to tap into the district’s deep pool of Republican voters to unseat Gaetz. Swaying the right-leaning district, however, will be no small task.

CD 1 includes five northwest Florida counties: Escambia, Holmes, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton. According to voter records, 44% of voters in Escambia County and 59% of voters in Santa Rosa County are registered Republicans.

What’s more, the last Democrat to run for the seat, Jennifer Zimmerman, fell short with only 32% in 2018. In 2016, Democratic challenger Steven Specht garnered only 31% of the district’s vote.

Ehr’s longshot bid hinges on his ability weaponize Gaetz’s loyalty to President Donald Trump against him. In a television ad titled “Cut the Noise,” Ehr likens the political tactics Gaetz and Trump use to those he experienced as a naval pilot in the Cold War, Desert Storm and Balkins.

Much of Ehr’s career was spent flying reconnaissance missions and advising senior leaders in Washington, London, and NATO, according to his campaign website.

“I’ve spent my whole life training for moments like this,” the 26-year Navy veteran says in the ad. “If you spend a lifetime learning how to see through the fog of war, there’s one thing you learn: one of the main tools of the enemy, it’s noise. Chaos meant to hide what’s actually going on.”

The ad continues: “In the cold war, we watched Russia use those tactics every day. But I never thought I’d see the day when American leaders would use information warfare against their own people.”

As of July 29, Ehr’s campaign chest holds over $292,000 cash on hand. He also enjoys an endorsement, among others, from the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus. Gaetz, meanwhile, boasts nearly $1 million in his war chest and a prime time appearance Monday at the 2020 Republican National Convention.

There, he delivered a doomsday speech to Trump’s base and the nation, warning of the perils of Democratic leadership.

“The woketopians will settle for Biden because they will make him an extra in a movie written, produced, and directed by others,” Gaetz said. ““It’s a horror film really. They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS13 to live next door. The police aren’t coming when you call. In Democrat-run cities, they’ve already been defunded.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.


8 comments

  • TED KRUZE

    August 25, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Apparently, FL CD #1 has one of the worst and most ineffective public school systems in America! How else could you possibly explain such abject and widespread stupidity among its constituency in electing a total and classless boob like Matt Gaetz to Congress???

    Stupid is as stupid does!

  • Joe Fatala

    August 25, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    Matt Gaetz, the DUIGuy. Just goes to show that it’s really about how much justice you can afford. He’ll try to buy his way out of everything.

  • Pedro

    August 25, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    So Gaetz’ and the RNC’s whole pitch is America is scary and violent, give us another four years?

    • Robert Dunn

      August 25, 2020 at 9:33 pm

      You’re confused. Its leftist Biden supporters looting, burning and killing who hate Trump. Vote Biden in and they will feel even more empowered to destroy nation wide……..only Biden won’t send federal officers and will support the Marxists. LOL

  • Floridatexan

    August 25, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    I live in FL 1st. I’m not from here, but I’ve lived here for 40 years. Both my children grew up here. There’s still a lot of racism and plain ignorance in this town. Maybe the outrageous behavior of this low-life piece of feces will finally wise people up. I’m voting for Phil Ehr, whom I’ve met. He’s a decent man with a fine family and a distinguished career in the Air Force. PHIL EHR FOR CONGRESS 2020!

    • Brad Cater

      August 25, 2020 at 9:38 pm

      If he’s a democrat he’s on the same side as Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, AOC, Maxine Watters, and the rest of the crazies. If you’re a taxpayer time to wake up and do some research.

      • Craig McDonnell

        September 3, 2020 at 2:59 pm

        He is a lifelong republican. He is a total Moderate, you should look at the truth. This is NOT the Republican Party of Bush, Bush, Reagan. I myself have been a Republican for 49 years and lived in the Panhandle of Florida since 1978. Phil Ehr is a decent kind man who believes much like John Kasich who as a Republican got the Republicans and Democrats together to balance the budget before Clinton left office. I will vote for EhrForCongress.com because he does not lie. Gaetz on the other had is exactly like his daddy who got caught funneling taxpayer Florida money to build a private hanger on the property of Okaloosa Walton Jr College presidents private land. So much for apples don’t fall from trees. Oh by the way research what happened to the two cops who gave Gaetz his TWO DUI’s. If you want to put up with the lies keep Gaetz, if you want the truth no matter what vote EHR.

  • Robert Dunn

    August 25, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Biden / Harris Platform & Goals:(Do you know?)

    Socialist llhan Omar stated recently, she will support Biden who has “one of the most progressive platforms in the history of the Democrat party.”

    *Citizenship for 20 to 50 million illegal aliens, DACA, TPS recipients, and their families with a cost of billions to taxpayers.

    *De-fund Police. Kamala Harris called it “re-imagine law enforcement” in the senate. Biden recently stated he was in favor, quote “redirecting law enforcement finds.” Police funds will be distributed to other programs. If Biden is elected you will see de-funding law enforcement countrywide.

    *Free Healthcare for Illegal aliens, DACA, TPS recipients (taxpayer-funded with one estimate at 52 trillion)

    *Massive tax increases. Biden has stated he will raise taxes to over 71 trillion. With his platform, he will have to.

    *Sanctuary Cities & States. Biden & Harris supports sanctuary cities.

    *Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Green new deal.(which would create massive unemployment, 100,000 jobs estimated in the transportation industry alone.) Biden & Harris support.

    *Reparations for the race’s harmed by Caucasians. Biden & Kamala Harris committed to Al Sharpton to support Sheila Jackson Lee’s reparations bill in the House. Basically a tax will be levied on all Caucasians in America. (you can’t make this stuff up)

    *De-fund & terminate border patrol & ICE. Funds used for other programs. * Climate Change: Biden climate change plan will cost trillions of tax dollars & jobs.

    *The Second Amendment will be under attack even more under Biden. Biden stated, “Beto O’Rourke will be his gun Czar,” Hell yeah I’m coming for your guns.”

    *Ending of all private / employer-based health care. “Medicare for all”, Feds run everything. This is Kamala Harris’s baby. Kiss goodbye to your healthcare plan if Biden/Harris wins.

    *Illegal Aliens eligible for welfare & food stamps. (Elizabeth Warren’s plan adopted) Endorsed by Biden & Harris.

    *Free college for all, including illegal aliens (taxpayer-funded with estimates in the billions). Bernie Sanders’s plan adopted. *Decriminalization of illegal entry into our country immediately.

    *Open Borders.

    *End all deportations of illegal aliens immediately, if you get here, you stay. Bernie’s website calls it a “moratorium” on deportations.

    *Drivers Licenses for illegal aliens (already happening in states with Democrat leadership. Biden & Harris endorsed

    *Destruction and erasing our history. Democrats want to make this election all about President Trump. NOT their platform & Goals for obvious

    If Joe Biden is elected President America will be on fire…..only Biden won’t send federal officers.

    Democrat Convention? All you heard at the Democrat convention was how horrible the American people are and how we must change. They bash President Trump constantly and that’s about it for the convention. What you did NOT hear is anyone speaks of their platform of the Democrat party. Seems odd, doesn’t it? It is so bad they must talk about anything else but what they’re going to do. Not a word of the unrest in Democrat-controlled cities across the country. The fact Democrats are trying to sell Biden & Harris as moderates show what they’re afraid of.

    Biden stated he’s going to “transform America” If you vote for Joe Biden it will be for a far-left platform. Biden has stated he is a” progressive,” he must follow the radical left’s agenda or he won’t get the support (and he is) of Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Karen Bass (Leader Congressional Black Caucus), llhan Omar, Elizabeth Warren, Val Demings, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Valerie Jarrett,. Rashida Talib, Stacy Abrams, Ayanna Pressley, Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, Pramila Jayapal. (This is the core of the socialist’s wing of the Democrat party) and is firmly in charge, not old, confused Joe Biden. Biden will be a puppet to Kamala Harris and those mentioned above.

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