Sea combat veteran announces self-funded main challenge to Matt Gaetz

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EXCLUSIVE: A businessman and maritime combat veteran with extensive aviation experience has announced a self-funded main challenge to Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz to represent the Sunshine State’s 1st Congressional District.

Speaking to Fox News Digital in an interview on Tuesday, Mark Lombardo, who flew CH-46 helicopters in Vietnam and is a former FedEx executive and pilot, described his vision for the district and his mission to defeat Gaetz, who, according to him, made some “terrible choices” and to “serve the good and hardworking people of Northwest Florida”.

“Matt Gaetz is completely ineffective as a congressman,” Lombardo said, pointing to Gaetz’s record. “Think about this: he missed 200 votes in nine and a half years, earning a six-figure salary. Think about it. If you missed 200 days of work earning a high six-figure salary, I know exactly what your boss would do to you.”

Discussing infrastructure issues and the loss of jobs for residents of the 1st district, Lombardo said Gaetz was “nowhere to be found”.

Sea combat veteran Mark Lombardo poses a major challenge to incumbent Rep. Matt Gaetz in Florida's 1st congressional district.
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Sea combat veteran Mark Lombardo poses a major challenge to incumbent Rep. Matt Gaetz in Florida’s 1st congressional district.
(Tom Williams, CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/Lombardo Campaign)

“I’m definitely willing to step up and put my money where my mouth is to represent…and serve the people of Northwest Florida,” he said, adding that his military background has given him learned to put the interests of others before his own. own.

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Lombardo has pledged to spend up to $1 million to defeat Gaetz in a GOP primary race in late August.

His announcement comes after a report published last March by The New York Times alleging that Gaetz crossed state lines with a 17-year-old girl for sexual purposes. Gaetz argued that the report is not true, telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson earlier this year, “I am innocent. I have maintained my innocence. I have been completely consistent on that fact every day, the lies about me unraveling and being debunked.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup session on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup session on Capitol Hill.
(Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP, File)

In his first campaign ad released Wednesday, Lombardo said he once worked “payroll to paycheck living in a trailer in Pensacola” and never thought he’d run for Congress. .

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“We all know Washington is broken, an absolute mess and a total disgrace,” he said in the announcement. “Part of the reason it’s so dysfunctional is that it’s filled with professional politicians – people who put their interests and themselves before yours.”

“We need conservatives who put America first, who put you first,” he added.

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