Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) announced late Thursday that he would not seek reelection next year — becoming the first of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 riot to retire.
In a statement, Gonzalez acknowledged that “[w]hile my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision, it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision.”
Gonzalez was facing a primary challenge from Max Miller, a former Trump campaign adviser who received the endorsement of the 45th president back in February.
“Current Rep. Anthony Gonzalez should not be representing the people of the 16th district because he does not represent their interest or their heart,” Trump said in a statement at the time.
In an interview with the New York Times, Gonzalez described Trump as a “cancer for the country” and recounted receiving threats following his impeachment vote.
In addition to the criticism from Trump, the Ohio Republican Party’s central committee passed a resolution in May calling on Gonzalez to resign, saying that he had “betrayed his constituents” and “knowingly and willfully violated his oath of office.”
Despite the vitriol, Gonzalez told the Times that he believed he could have fended off Miller, though he acknowledged the primary fight would have been “brutally hard.” However, as he put it, “the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now.”
“You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy?” Gonzalez said. “And the answer is, probably not.”
Two other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — are part of the House select committee investigating the violence at the US Capitol, which disrupted the certification of the 2020 election results and led to the deaths of five people.
Cheney, who was removed from her post as House Republican conference chair earlier this year, has shown no inclination to leave office.
But with Trump vowing to do everything he can to support primary challenges to those lawmakers he deems insufficiently loyal, it remains to be seen how many of the remaining pro-impeachment Republicans will fight for their seats.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez told the Times, he will spend his time out of office fighting to weaken Trump’s hold on the GOP.
“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” he said of the former president. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”