Embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz Survives Florida Primary, Overcoming Biggest Hurdle on Road to Reelection
Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Rep. Matt Gaetz
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Republican firebrand who is currently embroiled in a federal sex crimes investigation, won his primary Tuesday in Florida.
Gaetz, 40, defeated former FedEx executive Mark Lombardo and retired military officer Greg Merk in the 1st Congressional District race.
In recent weeks, Lombardo aired attack ads against Gaetz, a Trump-endorsed ally.
"Send this Marine to Washington. I'll respect your family," Lombardo said in one of the ads attacking Gaetz.
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The incumbent spent $1.1 million on local TV ads while challenger Lombardo spent at least $500,000, according to NBC News.
In another ad, Lombardo implied that Gaetz had been the FBI informant that led to the Aug. 8 search at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence.
While Donald Trump Jr. worked the campaign trail for the congressman, the former president did not officially endorse Gaetz until last weekend on his social media site Truth Social, calling him "a relentless Fighter for the incredible people of Florida's 1st Congressional District."
"Matt is a Champion of our MAGA Agenda, who tirelessly works to Drain the Swamp, Secure the Border, Support our Brave Veterans and Law Enforcement, Defend the Second Amendment, Stand Up to the Woke Mob, and Fight the Never-Ending Witch Hunts from the Radical Left that are destroying our Country!" Trump wrote.
Gaetz is currently the subject of a grand jury investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid her to travel with him. News of the investigation into Gaetz first broke last March and, according to The New York Times, was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, under then-Attorney General Bill Barr.
Rep. Matt Gaetz
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In July, the congressman came under fire after he body-shamed a Texas teenager on social media.
Olivia Julianna, a 19-year-old activist who lives in Houston, had taken to Twitter to criticize Gaetz for comments he made at a recent right-wing conference, when he said, "Women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions?"
"Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb," Gaetz said at the Student Action Summit in Tampa. "These people are odious from the inside out. They're like 5′2", 350 pounds.'"
After Julianna criticized Gaetz on Twitter, the representative then shared her profile photo to his 1.6 million followers, adding the caption, "dander raised" to insinuate that Julianna had been angered by his remarks.
In response, the teen went on to raise more than $275,000 for abortion rights over two days.
RELATED: Texas Teen Helps Raise $275K for Abortion Fund After Being Body-Shamed by Rep. Matt Gaetz: 'You Creep'
Gaetz is now set to take on a Democrat who has already faced her own challenges with the state's Republican right.
Rebecca D. Jones, a former data manager for the Florida Department of Health, faced the wrath of Gov. Ron DeSantis during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when she claimed she was fired from her job after she refused to lie about virus data.
She was criminally charged with using a state computer to download a file without authorization, according to The New York Times, and the case is currently pending.