During his initial bid to represent the Third Congressional District of Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ted Yoho did everything but pinky swear that he would term-limit himself after eight years of service. Yoho was theatrically critical of then-incumbent Cliff Stearns, who made the same promise but then took up residence in Washington D.C. for 24 years. Yoho term-shamed Stearns and, in a viral ad campaign, depicted career politicians as “pigs at the trough.”
“... After eight years in Washington, I’ll come home,” Yoho promised. “If eight years was good enough for George Washington, it’s good enough for me.” When a Gainesville Sun reporter asked if he would keep that promise, Yoho said he could take it to the bank.
Now, Yoho is at least considering another term. While he claims that he has not yet decided whether to take the leap, he has already registered to run and has raised more than $70,000 since January, presently reporting nearly a quarter-million dollars in his campaign chest. (Oddly, according to campaign records, a large portion of his 2019 donations came from out of state, specifically New York.)
Although Yoho’s promise to leave Washington was not conditional eight years ago or at any time during his three consecutive bids for the seat, he now cites several reasons for going back to Washington. Above all, Yoho says, he wants to support Donald Trump by ensuring his seat remains in Republican hands, although the Democratic Party considers the district “unwinnable.” FL-03—which encompasses Clay County in addition to portions of Alachua, Bradford, Marion, Putnam, and Union counties—is largely Republican and has elected Republican representatives since 1988.
Most damning for Yoho is the fact that his critics and challengers are mostly Republicans. One contender, Judson Sapp is a Clay County businessman with deep ties to the Republican Party and the Trump White House. Sapp is on President Trump’s Election Finance Committee and has raised megadollars for the party. Amy Pope Wells is another Republican seeking Yoho’s seat. A third Republican challenger, Joseph Dallas Millado, was a congressional staffer for Yoho’s old nemesis, Rep. Stearns, as well as for Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida’s 12th District.
Another reason Yoho has given in for staying in D.C. is to support the president during the impeachment hearings. However, the hearings will no doubt have concluded long before the January 2121 start of a fifth Yoho term. And while he is a member of a committee overseeing the impeachment efforts and has a right to attend the hearings and be recognized, he told CNN News that he had not attended any of the hearings. When asked if he had read any of the transcripts from the hearings, Yoho said he has not. After his CNN appearance, Yoho received criticism and seems to be taking his duties more seriously.
Insiders say the real reason Yoho is breaking his promise is to buy time to groom a successor: Kat Cammack, his campaign manager and deputy chief of staff. Cammack is currently a political unknown, but sources say Yoho plans to put her front and center during his 2020 campaign and during his fifth term. By the time she runs in 2022, Yoho reckons she will be a known quantity and a strong contender. Further solidifying this contention is the fact that Cammack has purchased the domain names katforcongress.com, cammackforcongress.com and katcammack.com.
Some still believe Yoho will keep his word. Furthermore, it is not unusual for politicians to continue fundraising even if they decide not to run. Campaign funds can always benefit the local, state or national parties or other candidates. Campaign funds can also be transferred to a future election campaign should the candidate decide to run for a different office. Funds can also be donated to charities but, more commonly, politicians donate to organizations that put their names on buildings as a living legacy for their egos.
Yoho has said he will announce his decision in January. Inquiring minds want to know if he is a man of his word or if one online critic was correct in his assessment: “The trough is fine, as long as he’s the one feeding from it.”