Matt Gaetz welcomed by hometown crowd weeks after booting House Speaker from office

He shared the stage with father Don Gaetz, a major player in state politics.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz spent most of October hearing boos from both sides of the aisle. But the Fort Walton Beach Republican was met with cheers at a campaign rally in Navarre.

The fourth-term Congressman welcomed a crowd of about 550 people, who heard from Gaetz and his father, former Florida Senate President and current state Senate candidate Don Gaetz. At the event, Gaetz said the support in Florida’s 1st Congressional District not only keeps his seat safe but inspires him to fight.

“In those tough moments in Washington, I could barely keep a food tester employed. I had three die on me last week,” he joked. “I go into those rooms, and sometimes they hate me and are mad at me and are cussing me. But what sustains me is the courage I see come through this community. And it is your prayers.”

The campaign stop marked a return home after a month in the spotlight after the Congressman led the first successful ouster of a U.S. House Speaker in history.

Gaetz defended the controversial move, which essentially shut down business in the House for 22 days until the GOP conference could unify around a replacement. That finally happened last week when House Republicans unanimously elevated U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, to Speaker.

Gaetz described Johnson as a man of faith and an experienced lawyer— and as an improvement to U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican.

“We are going to be so much better off in this fight with Mike Johnson as Speaker,” he said.

Gaetz detailed continued disputes with McCarthy and asserted the former Speaker was the chief reason the fight to find a new Speaker took so long. He alleged McCarthy had knifed GOP Conference choices Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan — and even tried to stop Johnson from becoming Speaker as well by opposing a roll call vote on who would affirm Johnson’s selection on the floor.

Of note, on the vote where Johnson finally secured the GOP conference nomination, more than 40 write-in votes were cast on a secret ballot to reinstate McCarthy. Still, no Republicans said they would back McCarthy on the floor during a roll call.

Gaetz said that justified his move to overthrow McCarthy as Speaker in the first place. The Panhandle Republican notably was the only member of Florida’s House delegation who refused to support McCarthy for Speaker in January through 15 votes. Earlier this month, he and seven other Republicans joined with all House Democrats in tossing McCarthy.

The way Gaetz describes it, he felt McCarthy had betrayed the caucus in budget negotiations with President Joe Biden and a Democrat-controlled Senate. That’s why he decided to make a vacate motion, he told the crowd.

“Powerful people never give it away unless you take it,” he said.

While he felt McCarthy had too eagerly given concessions to Democrats, Gaetz said he learned colleagues on the other side of the aisle also maintained distrust of McCarthy.

“I said Democrats might like him, but I told them it wasn’t going to be on Northwest Florida’s representative to own him,” Gaetz said. “It turns out they didn’t want to own him either.”

Gaetz, for much of the rally, brought his father, a powerful politician at the state level, on stage with him. The two alternately discussed problems facing the federal government and Florida.

Matt Gaetz tossed punches at federal agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who he accused of targeting gun shops in red states, and the U.S. Department of Education, who he blamed for pushing an agenda at odds with the desire of some parents.

Don Gaetz, running for state office, noted rising insurance costs and a Public Service Commission too friendly with Florida Power & Light (FPL). But the Congressman also cheered on his father’s criticisms of state government, calling out FPL by name as an interest with too much influence.

While the issues will be part of Don Gaetz’s campaign for state office this election cycle, the rhetoric by the Congressman could also lay groundwork and battle lines for his own rumored run for Governor in 2026.

Both Gaetzes tossed out red meat issues for a crowd of loyal partisans. Don Gaetz noted his son was defending Florida’s “stand your ground” law while still in the Florida Legislature.

“Where I’m from, we believe in the Second Amendment not as an esoteric theory but as a way of life,” the Congressman said, “and it has a tendency to keep everyone real polite.”

He also drew big applause lines promising to hold Johnson to a commitment to release security footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. And he vowed to push for separate votes in Congress on issues like funding for Israel and the conflict in Ukraine, the former of which he supports and the latter of which he opposes.

Jacob Ogles

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 [email protected].


  • Earl Pitts "Earl Knows Best" American

    October 31, 2023 at 4:30 am

    Good mornting America,
    Its great that Florida’s next Govornor stopped by to check on us.
    With Desantis in The White House and Gaetz in The Govornir’s Mansion it will be a great time to entertain ourselves watching all the Dook 4 Brains Lefty’s scream at the sky!!!!
    Thank you and dont forget to relax your sphincters,
    Earl Pitts American

  • Michael K

    October 31, 2023 at 9:14 am

    Did he explain how his selfish shennaigans destabilized the US government at a time of global crisis, wasted time and hundreds of millions of dollars in pubic funds, spooked the financial markets, and did absolutely nothing to help the people apparently so enthralled by his theatrics? Any toddler can throw a tantrum and break things – and this bomb thrower has built nothing but a radical far-right social media audience for himself.

    • Tom

      October 31, 2023 at 9:30 am

      I suspect he still thinks he will run for Governor in 2026 when Tiny D gets the heave ho. Even for Florida, that’s a bridge too far.

    • Earl Pitts "Earl Knows Best" American

      October 31, 2023 at 9:52 am

      Good mornting mis-guided, propaganda loving, dirty rotten liars … AKA: Dook 4 Brains Leftists/RINO’s,
      You guys are mis-appropriating the blaim to Gaetz. The blaim falls on the shoulders of every voter which cast a vote for 8iden and generally votes Democrat.
      All the blood of God’s childern is on you for electing the weak 8iden administration …. what did y’all think was going to happen with an international policy of American weakness, stupidity, and incompitance?
      The time-line on Gaetz spanking McCarthy and HAMAS slaughtering God’s Childern of Isreal is totally irrelevant. HAMAS was not triggered by Gaetz spabking McCarthy. Idiots.
      Thank you Dook 4 Brains Leftists/RINO’s,
      Earl Pitts “Who’s Your Daddy” American

      • BeetleBoobs Boebert

        October 31, 2023 at 11:22 am


      • Rick Whitaker

        October 31, 2023 at 9:58 pm


  • Joe

    October 31, 2023 at 12:59 pm

    An impressive gathering of 551 groomers, at least.

  • My Take

    October 31, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    Imagine a crowd of Gaetz supporters and cònstituents. Just try.
    The closest I càn conjure up is a zombie apocalypse. Though ghouls might be more fitting. Cretins at the very least bizarre.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn