Like father, like son? As possibility of Matt Gaetz for Florida governor builds, Don Gaetz eyes return to state Senate

The pair's respective political heft could create a Gaetz ‘dream team’ in the governor’s mansion and at the state Capitol.

Photo illustration by Anabel Dayao/City & State. Photos via Florida Senate (left), Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

As the buzz grows behind Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz running for Florida governor in 2026, he’s not the only person in his family mulling a run for office.

Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, the congressman’s father and also a Republican, has said he has been asked to consider running for his old seat, Senate District 1 in the state’s western Panhandle. The current officeholder, Republican Doug Broxson, is term-limited next year; Gaetz held the heavily R-leaning seat 2006-14, including two years as the chamber’s president. 

The pair's respective political heft could create a Gaetz ‘dream team’ in the governor’s mansion and at the state Capitol.

Don Gaetz, 75, is still in public service – he now sits on the Florida Commission of Ethics – and still holds sway in The Process. Matt Gaetz, a 41-year-old former Florida House member, has risen in popularity in the state’s MAGA wing, with family members of former President Trump already saying they would support him if he runs in 2026.

And ask current Gov. Ron DeSantis: A Donald Trump endorsement is electoral gold

But the younger Gaetz entering the 2026 gubernatorial race could spark a significant battle in the Republican Party of Florida born in the current rifts formed between DeSantis and Trump. 

Matt Gaetz was in the governor’s circle early in his administration, standing with him when he called on lawmakers to make smokable medical marijuana legal, for instance. (They later passed a law expressly making it so.) Since then, he’s broken ranks with the governor to support Trump for president, even publicly feuding with his old ally. 

Current Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez has received glowing praise from DeSantis, and there’s talk among lobbyists and political donors that she could run in 2026, when DeSantis is term-limited.

Other potential GOP candidates include U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds and every member of the Florida Cabinet: Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson. 

Matt Gaetz did not respond to a request for comment. Don Gaetz, however, told City & State “nobody should read into the fact that the political class is talking about both of (us).” People have asked him to run out of concern that the Panhandle will lose political influence if an established figure doesn’t fill the job, he added.  

“Doug Broxson was very successful. He is currently (the Senate’s) appropriations (committee) chair. The power of that seat is dependent not on votes, but the influence of the person with the title,” Gaetz said.

He added that a poll was shown to him – one he didn’t commission or pay for – suggesting the race would be lopsided in his favor if he enters. 

“There is no political itch I’m trying to scratch. If I run for Senate again, it will be because my family thinks it is the right thing to do and I think I can be of some value again for the people of northwest Florida,” Gaetz said.

Meantime, his son has downplayed – but not outright denied – talk that he is considering running for governor in 2026, calling them “overblown.” And Don Gaetz said his son’s attention is on his current legislative standoff with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. 

“Any father would be proud of folks talking about their son for a promotion, but Matt is singularly focused on the overspending problems in Washington and singularly focused on bringing sense to the budget process,” Gaetz said.

One prominent Florida conservative already has come out strongly against Matt Gaetz taking the governor’s office. 

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, took to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, to say that “if Matt Gaetz runs for Governor in Florida I will personally and publicly use every resource available to to our movement to ensure he is defeated in the primary,” he wrote.

Reached for comment, he declined to comment further, saying, “I think my tweet speaks for itself.”

Contact Tristan Wood at twood@cityandstatefl.com and follow him on X: @TristanDWood

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