Once a GOP rising star, Ohio congressman retires following vote to impeach Donald Trump

Ohio Rep. ​​Anthony Gonzalez, who was one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, announced Thursday evening that he would not seek reelection out of disgust for “​​the toxic dynamics inside our own party.”

Gonzalez, who also said that his family had received death threats following his January vote, further told The New York Times that he’d devote “[m]ost of my political energy” toward ensuring that Trump never returned to the White House. Trump, for his part, celebrated Gonzalez’s departure by emphasizing his earlier endorsement for former White House aide Max Miller and gloating, “1 down, 9 to go!” 

The current version of Ohio’s 16th District, which contains the western suburbs of Cleveland and Akron, supported Trump 56-42 in 2020. The Buckeye State will lose a House seat during the upcoming round of redistricting, but it’s unlikely this constituency will be the one that gets eliminated since the GOP has more or less complete control over the map-making process. The Trump-backed Miller will also be hard to stop in a primary despite allegations that he physically attacked his then-girlfriend, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, last year.

Despite the nature of Gonzalez’s departure, the two-term congressman began his political career looking like a GOP rising star not long ago. Gonzalez had a well-regarded football career at the Ohio State University, and he was named an Academic All-American. After he left the NFL following his stint on the Indianapolis Colts, he went on to serve as chief operating officer for an education technology company in San Francisco.

Gonzalez moved back to Ohio before he entered the 2018 race to succeed Rep. Jim Renacci, who initially launched a campaign for governor before switching to the Senate race later in the cycle. Gonzalez’s main intra-party rival was state Rep. Christina Hagan, who was a prominent Trump backer in 2016 when Ohio Gov. John Kasich was also seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

Hagan pitched herself as the true Trump believer of the race and argued that Gonzalez’s Silicon Valley connections made him an insider. Gonzalez, though, enjoyed a massive financial advantage over Hagan and benefited from outside spending from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; his ties to his locally popular alma mater also probably made it tougher for his opponent to frame this as a battle between the dreaded establishment and a Trump-flavored outsider. Ultimately, Gonzalez prevailed 53-41, and his easy general election win made him the first Latino to represent Ohio in Congress.

Gonzalez loyally voted with the Trump administration during his first term and opposed impeaching him in 2019, but he changed course after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “The President of the United States helped organize and incite a mob that attacked the United States Congress in an attempt to prevent us from completing our solemn duties as prescribed by the Constitution,” the congressman said as he explained his vote for impeachment, adding, “During the attack itself, the President abandoned his post while many members asked for help, thus further endangering all present. These are fundamental threats not just to people’s lives but to the very foundation of the Republic.”

That vote quickly made Gonzalez radioactive with the party base and enticed Miller, who hails from a very wealthy and well-connected family, to challenge him. Gonzalez raised a serious amount of money to defend his seat, but he acknowledged Thursday, “Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now.” The outgoing congressman continued, “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

Gonzalez, House Republican impeach-backer, won’t seek reelection

Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump earlier this year, has announced he won’t run for reelection in 2022.

Gonzalez, who represents a Northeast Ohio district, cited the need to focus on his family, including his two children. But the second-term congressman, in an interview with The New York Times, also said the strain placed on his family since his impeachment vote in January played a role in his decision.

Gonzalez, 36, is the first of the group of 10 to step aside after a perilous few months, in which anti-Trump Republican lawmakers faced harassment in airports and censure votes in their home states.

He said he knows supporters will find the news disappointing, “given the political realities of the day.”

“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

Gonzalez, who insisted he could win his seat, was set to face what he said would be a “brutally hard primary” against Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who was endorsed by the former president earlier this year. The district will be redrawn before next May's primary, and Ohio is losing one of its 16 congressional districts, likely scrambling the new map.

Even if he were to win in 2022, Gonzalez questioned if he would truly be happy holding public office in a fractured Republican Party largely dominated by Trump backers.

“Please know that every word has meant the world to me and given me hope that the chaotic political environment that currently infects our country will only be temporary,” he said in the statement.

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