Florida representative Matt Gaetz is said to be eyeing the state’s governor’s office when incumbent Ron DeSantis’ term is up in 2026, several people familiar with Mr Gaetz said.

For the last six years, Mr Gaetz has represented Florida’s first district as a hardline Republican aligned with former president Donald Trump.

But some believe Mr Gaetz could be seeking to further his political career by running for Florida governor after Mr DeSantis leaves in either 2026 when his term is up or 2024 if he is elected to the White House.

Several people who attended an event in Tallahassee this weekend told NBC News that Mr Gaetz implied he would be running for governor and seemingly commanded the room.

However, in a statement provided to The Independent, Mr Gaetz said those remarks were “overblown” and running for Florida governor is not a priority.

“I ran into dozens of former colleagues from my days in the state legislature. They encouraged me relentlessly to consider returning to Florida. I wasn’t focused on any of that talk, though,” Mr Gaetz said.

The event that Mr Gaetz, and others, attended this week was a designation ceremony and reception for state representative Danny Perez who will serve as Florida’s speaker of the house.

One Republican lobbyist told NBC News that there was “a lot of talk” at the reception about Mr Gaetz’s potential gubernatorial run.

But Mr Gaetz says differently. Claiming his “sole mission right now is to kill the Donalds CR that funds Ukraine, Jack Smith, and a weaponized Biden government.”

Mr Gaetz did not indicate if he would consider running for governor down the line, though some of those close to him told NBC News they wouldn’t be surprised.

One Florida Republican operative said Mr Gaetz “is an instant front-runner” for the position, given he is a close ally of Mr Trump who could give him a boosting endorsement.

Additionally, Mr Gaetz has made a name for himself in Congress for going against the grain – much like his fellow Freedom Caucus members. Most recently, Mr Gaetz opposed Kevin McCarthy’s speakership election and has threatened to hold a vote to oust him.

Mr Gaetz’s outspokenness as a hard-right Republican is notably similar to positions Mr DeSantis took, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For now, Mr Gaetz will continue fighting Mr McCarthy as they attempt to avoid a government shutdown.

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