U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz won his bid for re-election Tuesday after a challenge from Democratic candidate Phil Ehr.
The Associated Press called the race for Florida’s 1st Congressional District in favor of Gaetz 13 minutes after polls closed at 7 p.m. The AP calls races based on exit polls and surveys of voters who voted early and analysis by elections experts.
Gaetz won the district, which includes the four counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton, as well as parts of Holmes County, with 282,980 votes, 64.61%, over Ehr’s 148,948 votes, 34.01% with 100% of precincts reporting.
Ehr hoped to upset Gaetz in the Republican stronghold that is Florida’s 1st Congressional District, and his campaign highlighted Ehr’s military service and that he was a Republican before President Donald Trump was elected.
The margin of victory was in line with Gaetz’s two past wins of 69.1% in 2016 and 67.10% in 2018.
Ehr did better in Escambia County, which has the highest number of Democrats in the district but still fell short of winning the county. Gaetz had 55.10% of Escambia County to Ehr’s share of 43.55%.
In Santa Rosa County, Gaetz won 70.88% of the vote compared to Ehr’s 27.82%.
Ehr ran in 2018 for the seat but lost out to Democrat Jennifer Zimmerman, who ran on a more liberal platform. Democrats bet on Ehr’s more moderate approach for 2020 and Ehr raised and spent more than $1.4 million on his campaign.
Despite Ehr’s efforts, Gaetz easily won re-election Tuesday with little campaigning.
Ehr files to run:Democrat Phil Ehr files to take another run at Matt Gaetz in 2020
Gaetz overcomes primary challenge:Matt Gaetz easily wins GOP nomination for congressional seat, will face Ehr
For the most up-to-date Election Results, click here.
In a Twitter exchange with Ehr last week, Gaetz bragged that he didn’t print a single campaign sign or run an advertisement in the campaign.
“I know our district (and) they know me,” Gaetz wrote.
Gaetz’s campaign still raised more than $4.5 million over two years and spent $3.6 million, with much of the spending on direct mailers.
Gaetz also spent much of the past few months of the campaign stumping for Trump and for Republicans in other parts of Florida and in other crucial swing states like Arizona.
Gaetz posted a thank you message to voters on his social media accounts Tuesday night.
“It’s always special to win an election and receive a positive performance review from my bosses, the voters of this great district,” Gaetz said. “And to win it by such an overwhelming margin when my opponent raised over $1.6 million and we didn’t run a single ad. We just put our trust in the people.”
Ehr also thanked voters in a statement released Tuesday night by his campaign.
“This race was always going to be an uphill battle. We had all the odds stacked against us. I had no name recognition and no family fortune to flood my campaign war-chest, to say nothing of the fact that we live in one of the “reddest” districts in the country,” Ehr said in a written statement. “But nevertheless, our message and our commitment to restoring honor and integrity to this district drove historic fundraising, brought in voters from across the political spectrum, and showed that it is always worth running for what you truly believe is right.”
Gaetz’s win Tuesday marks his third time winning election to the House of Representatives from Northwest Florida.
Jim Little can be reached at email@example.com and 850-208-9827.
Friends, this isn’t the time to be complacent. If you are ready to fight for the soul of this nation, you can start by donating to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by clicking the button below.
Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.