But new campaign finance records released this week show Gonzalez narrowly overtook his Trump-backed main foe in the last quarter, while enjoying a war chest nearly three times the size of his opponent.
“A lot of times I don’t care what the former president says about me or the period – aside from the more dangerous parts of his speeches obviously,” Gonzalez told CNN.
The Republican National Congressional Committee, which is the main campaign arm of the House GOP, remains out of the primaries – saying it is the group’s policy not to engage in party conflict – leaving the candidates fend for themselves.
Some Republicans facing Trump’s onslaught say they totally agree with it.
GOP lawmakers largely face key opponents who perpetuate Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him, a sort of litmus test for candidates keen to win the approval of the former president.
Joe Kent, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer and husband of Gold Star, who takes on Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler with backing from billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, told CNN: “I think that Trump won, but I want to prove it. ”
House GOP campaign boss plans to stay out of primaries
The two biggest fundraisers of the 10 who voted to impeach Trump were also the most vocal against the former president: Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
Kinzinger significantly outperformed the competition, making $ 806,475 between April and June. He now has a campaign war chest of over $ 3 million, more than 20 times the available cash of his GOP challenger Catalina Lauf.
GOP members maintain they are not concerned about the prospects of a difficult primary.
“I can’t wait to be there,” Cheney said when asked about his primary against state lawmakers Chuck Gray and Anthony Bouchard, businessman Darin Smith and others. “It’s going to be a great race.”
Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer, chairman of the NRCC, told CNN that members of the House and other political committees can get involved in House races, but his organization would not interfere in the primaries. Republicans, even for members of swing districts like California Representative David Valadao, who voted to impeach Trump.
“We don’t want Washington’s heavy hand to get into the debate, the discussion, that voters in a certain district are having about representation,” Emmer said. “That being said, I absolutely want to see them win.”
In Ohio, Trump endorsed Max Miller, a 32-year-old former Marine Corps reservist and member of the Trump campaign, to take Gonzalez’s seat in 2022, and campaigned for Miller in June at his first rally. since leaving the White House. New campaign records show Miller raised more than $ 443,000 in the second quarter of the year, an impressive number for a first-time candidate, no doubt bolstered by Trump.
But Gonzalez raised even more – over $ 602,000 – and his campaign has $ 1.5 million – nearly three times the size of Miller’s war chest, as he shielded himself from the fallout.
When asked if it would be helpful for the NRCC to support his campaign, Gonzalez replied, “Of course,” but didn’t seem to be counting on any help. “I’ve been here long enough to know that you have to mind your own business,” he added.
“I welcome their support but I am not expecting a miracle solution from the outside.”
McCarthy helps raise funds for some Republican critics of Trump
Half of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump – Valadao, Beutler, Katko and Michigan Reps Fred Upton and Peter Meijer – have a joint fundraising committee with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and his leadership PAC, which raised approximately $ 100,000 for each of the five campaigns in the first half of the year. The joint fundraising committee – known as Take Back the House 2022 – did not raise funds for the other five: Cheney, Kinzinger, Gonzalez, Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, and Carolina Rep. South Tom Rice.
When asked if the House GOP leadership has helped his campaign, Valadao said, “They have all been very, very supportive.”
Challengers typically have a harder time raising funds against incumbents, who have already established a connection with voters, donors, and powerful allies like McCarthy. Some of the pro-Trump challengers will be long term unless Trump comes to their aid.
“It’s tough for a Republican challenger in a primary when you have a sitting Republican to raise money,” Chris Mathys, a Republican candidate running against Valadao, told CNN. “Ultimately, we are seeking the support of constituents in the constituency. And they are extremely unhappy with Mr. Valadao’s betrayal of his oath.”
Mathys, who said he believed Trump won the 2020 election, raised $ 12,300 in the second quarter and gave his campaign a $ 100,000 loan. Valadao has raised over $ 482,000 and has close to $ 820,000, which is Mathys’ quadruple figure.
Asked if he thought his vote to impeach Trump would hurt him in the primary, Valadeo told CNN: “It’s hard to say. It really is. But we’ll find out. ”
Pro-Trump challengers like Mathys believe they will get popular support despite their meager fundraising. But some challengers have actually raised money to run a credible campaign even without Trump’s approval.
In Washington state, Kent became more politically active after his wife, Navy cryptologist Shannon Kent, was killed in 2019 while conducting special operations against ISIS in Syria. Kent then decided to run for Congress after Beutler’s impeachment vote and made “electoral integrity” one of his main campaign issues, even though there is no evidence of widespread electoral fraud in the 2020 election. After raising more than $ 366,000 in the second quarter, Kent has $ 512,150, or about half of Beutler’s cash.
“I want a full forensic audit of any place (where) there were widespread discrepancies,” Kent said of the 2020 election.
Yet most Republicans facing a tough primary challenge just ignore it.
“I can’t control what he does, and he can’t control what I do,” Rice said of Trump.
CNN’s Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.