Bryan Jones, a Republican challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in Florida’s 1st Congressional District, has withdrawn from the race seven weeks ahead of the Primary Election.
In a press release from his camp, the Air Force veteran cited the candidacy of Marine Corps veteran Mark Lombardo as a contributing factor in his decision.
Lombardo, a Republican and retired FedEx executive, filed to run in June and pledged to spend $1 million of his own money on his campaign. Jones’ departure from the race clears the way for Lombardo to go head-to-head with Gaetz.
Jones said having two veterans on the ballot wouldn’t be in the best interest of the district, which covers Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties in the western Panhandle.
“I got into this race because I was once again answering a calling to serve this nation. I no longer felt our representatives reflected the values of my family, my neighbors, or me, and I felt compelled to mount a campaign to be a representative that would serve this nation,” Jones said in a statement. “The Republican Primary on August 23rd is a winner-take-all system and a crowded ballot is not in the best interest of the voters of this district.”
Gaetz has been a controversial and polarizing figure in Congress since 2017. Gaetz’s name has repeatedly come up in the Jan. 6 hearings. He has denied the validity of testimony suggesting he sought a preemptive pardon for his role in former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election.
Lombardo called on Gaetz to turn over his email, phone and text records on the matter.
“If Gaetz has nothing to hide, he should have no problem shining a little sun on the backroom deals he was trying to cut to escape prosecution,” Lombardo said. “No one is above the law, including Matt Gaetz. The voters of the 1st District and the American people deserve to know what Matt Gaetz asked for, when he asked for it, and to whom he made the requests.”
Gaetz released a statement Tuesday afternoon addressing Jones’ departure, saying, “Ginger and I wish Bryan and his family the best going forward in their future endeavors. Running for office isn’t for everyone. It requires the fight and energy that we bring for the people of Northwest Florida every day.”