The controversial Republican "strongly implied several times he would be running for governor" during a Sunday night reception in Tallahassee, NBC News reports
Controversial Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is reportedly planning to run for governor, though the lawmaker is remaining tight-lipped about it, at least publicly.
NBC News reports that 41-year-old Gaetz "strongly implied several times he would be running for governor" during a Sunday night reception in Tallahassee.
The outlet quotes one longtime Florida Republican lobbyist as saying, “There was a lot of talk about it at the reception last night, and Gaetz was telling people to basically expect him to be in."
Gaetz was in recent years the focus of a Department of Justice probe into allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid her to travel with him. Ultimately, investigators recommended not moving forward with trafficking charges against the lawmaker.
News of the investigation into the Florida lawmaker first broke in March 2021. According to The New York Times, it was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under then-Attorney General Bill Barr.
Sources told NBC News at the time that Gaetz was being investigated for three separate alleged crimes: sex trafficking the 17-year-old; violating the Mann Act by taking a woman or women across state lines for prostitution; and obstruction of justice.
Gaetz denied any wrongdoing, previously insisting to multiple news outlets that the overarching case was "rooted in an extortion effort" against him.
The probe involving Gaetz reportedly spun out of another investigation, into Joel Greenberg, his friend and former GOP official from Seminole County, Florida.
Greenberg was indicted on a range of charges, including sex trafficking of a child, in 2020. In May, he pleaded guilty to multiple charges including sex trafficking a minor and was believed to be cooperating with authorities.
Greenberg and Gaetz have been photographed together in the past.
While the investigation did not result in any charges, in June, Punchbowl News reported that the House Ethics Committee had quietly reopened its probe into the Republican, citing sources familiar with the investigation.
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Gaetz, who assumed office in 2017 and has since become a staunch ally of former president Donald Trump, was reelected to the House in 2022. The next Florida gubernatorial race is set for 2026.
Speaking to NBC News when asked about the rumors, Gaetz demurred, saying, “Many did encourage me to consider running for governor one day. But we have an outstanding governor who will be in that position through 2026. My only political focus right now is Trump 2024."
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