Trump aide preps primary against Ohio impeachment supporter
Former Trump White House aide Max Miller is expected to wage a primary challenge against GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, the latest opponent to take on a House Republican who supported the former president’s impeachment.
Miller, who hails from northeastern Ohio, has been in talks with top Republican donors in the state and other party leaders since leaving the White House last month, according to a person familiar with the plans. He recently purchased a house in Rocky River, inside Gonzalez’s 16th District.
The 10 House GOP members who supported impeachment in January are facing a barrage of criticism and primary threats from fellow Republicans. Gonzalez has been rebuked by several local GOP organizations, including the Medina County Republican Party, which censured the congressman, and the Strongsville GOP, which rescinded its endorsement of Gonzalez and has called on him to resign.
Former President Donald Trump and his orbit of political advisers and supporters are eager to oust the impeachment backers in 2022. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, an outspoken impeachment supporter, has already drawn several primary opponents, as has Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
Gonzalez, 36, was elected to Congress in 2018 with support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other pro-business groups after the district’s former representative, Republican Jim Renacci, ran for Senate. The runner-up in the Republican primary that year, Christina Hagan, painted herself as more closely aligned with the former president and won endorsements from the likes of pro-Trump Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, but Gonzalez prevailed by a healthy margin.
But the intensity on the pro-Trump side could be higher in 2022 in the wake of the January impeachment vote. The 32-year-old Miller is a Trump loyalist, having served on his 2016 campaign before entering the White House. He became director of advance after serving in the office of presidential personnel. Miller, a Marine reservist, then joined the 2020 reelection campaign, where he served as deputy campaign manager for presidential operations.
The former Trump aide is from a prominent Cleveland family: Miller’s grandfather is the late real estate executive and philanthropist Sam Miller, who was a benefactor of an array of northeastern Ohio organizations and Jewish groups.
A person familiar with the planning for Miller’s expected campaign said that he’s received six figures in commitments from donors, but that he would have the personal resources to provide self-financing if necessary.
Gonzalez has stood by his impeachment vote, saying in a recent appearance on a conservative podcast that he had a “whole mountain of problems” with Trump’s effort to overturn the election results and that during the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, “the president didn’t step up in my opinion in nearly the right way, to stop it.”
But Gonzalez, a former football player for Ohio State University and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, acknowledged that he could have jeopardized his reelection hopes.
“You have to love your country and you have to adhere to your oath more strongly than you do your job, and I don’t know what political fate will play out,” Gonzalez said. “If my fate is ultimately that I don’t get to come back, I will do that at peace.”
Miller would join an increasingly long list of former Trump administration officials who may run in 2022 races. Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has jumped into the race for Arkansas governor and has received Trump’s endorsement.
Lynda Blanchard, a former Trump administration ambassador to Slovenia, is running for Alabama’s open Senate seat, and former White House official Cliff Sims is also considering getting into the contest. Carla Sands, who was ambassador to Denmark, is considering entering the race for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat.
Trump’s interest in ousting GOP critics extends to the Senate. His advisers have discussed supporting a challenge to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment and is facing reelection in 2022. But Alaska’s new open primary system may protect Murkowski, who has strong cross-party appeal in her state.