Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) says he will not run for re-election in 2022 because of former President Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party.
Gonzalez was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, and the former president backed Gonzalez’s primary opponent, Max Miller, in retaliation. Trump and Gonzalez had ridden together on Air Force One, but Trump called the Ohio congressman a “sellout” and “fake Republican” at a rally in June.
“The current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision,” Gonzalez wrote on Twitter on Thursday. He lamented the “chaotic political environment that currently infects our country” but said his supporters gave him hope it would only be “will only be temporary.”
Speaking to The New York Times, Gonzalez called Trump “a cancer for the country” and said, “I don’t believe he can ever be president again. Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”
He called that Jan. 6 Capitol riot “a line-in-the-sand moment” that prompted his vote to impeach Trump.
The former president relished in Gonzalez’s withdrawal Friday morning, calling his impeachment vote “ill-informed and otherwise very stupid” and highlighting Miller’s candidacy.
“This is no loss for Ohio or our country,” Trump said in a statement. “Good riddance to Anthony, he can now get himself a job at ratings-dead CNN or MSDNC!”
Gonzalez has served two terms in the House. He also cited concerns for his two young children and a desire to spend more time with them in his choice not to run.
“It is clear that the best path for our family is not to seek re-election next fall,” he wrote.
With Gonzalez out of the running, Miller, a former Trump campaign staffer endorsed by the former president, sidesteps a formidable opponent in his bid to become his district’s Republican nominee. Miller has a lengthy criminal record that includes disorderly conduct, assault, resisting arrest, and vandalism. He once dated former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, but their relationship came to an abrupt end when Miller reportedly pushed her against the wall of his apartment and slapped her in the face for accusing him of infidelity, according to Politico. Miller has denied the assault occurred and has said his rap sheet does not reflect the person he is today.
Gonzalez said, “This is the direction that we’re going to go in for the next two years and potentially four, and it’s going to make Trump the center of fund-raising efforts and political outreach. That’s not something I’m going to be part of.”
The Ohio Republican was a rising star in the GOP before voting for Trump’s impeachment. He was a wide receiver for Ohio State who went on to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. He later earned an MBA at Stanford and took his district’s congressional seat on his first try.
He told the Times he believed he could beat Miller, but at a high price.
“You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not,” he said.