Looks like we have a little Halloween treat for Florida voters — an elected official actually keeping a campaign promise he made before he got elected.
When Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) first ran in 2012, he drew attention with an ad that portrayed “career politicians” like the incumbent Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) whom he was challenging as “pigs feeding at the trough.”
Yoho, a veterinarian, also made a promise to voters in that ad: “…and after eight years in Washington, I’ll come home.”
Yoho went on to narrowly defeat Stearns in the primary by a little more than one percent, then sailed to an easy victory in the general election. Florida’s Third Congressional District encompasses a deeply conservative swath of North Central Florida, including all of Alachua, Clay, Putnam, Bradford, and Union Counties, and most of Marion County.
Yoho was re-elected for subsequent terms in the 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections.
Which brings us to today. We’ve now hit the eight-year deadline on Yoho’s promise and while an official announcement has yet to be made, Yoho has sent clear signals that he is not intending to run for another term.
His campaign website and Facebook account have occasional posts touting his work in Congress, support for President Donald Trump, and other news items, but zero recent mentions I could find of campaign events, fundraising requests, etc.
Moreover, Yoho’s fundraising has been somnambulant this term. The Federal Election Commission website lists the following contributions and disbursements for his previous elections:
Ending Cash on Hand: $72,397.35
(Note: These figures include a $50,000 loan from the candidate, which was repaid.)
Ending Cash on Hand: $90,736.47
Ending Cash on Hand: $129,794.86
Ending Cash on Hand: $260,713.35
As you can see, in the previous election cycles, Yoho raised high six figures in contributions, spent most of it, and went into the next election cycle to repeat a similar pattern. This changes with the 2020 election cycle, which is half over: Yoho has taken in only $73,962.61, and spent in excess of that ($86,708.52). He’s clearly not making any sort of effort to raise funds for a re-election campaign.
Another telltale sign emerged late Wednesday evening: Yoho deactivated his campaign Twitter account, @TedYoho, as noted by the @CongressChanges bot account that tracks “when Congress-related Twitter accounts are renamed, deactivated or reactivated.”
Deactivated: Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) campaign account "TedYoho"
— Congress Changes (@CongressChanges) October 31, 2019
Yoho’s potential successors include Judson Sapp, Amy Pope Wells, and Joe Millado. Neither Millado, a former Congressional aide, nor Pope Wells, a former critical care nurse who runs a staffing and payroll company with her husband, have been able to get much traction with fundraising or name ID.
Sapp, CEO of W.J. Sapp Railroad Contractor, who previously challenged Yoho in the 2018 primary, has touted his hometown roots — he grew up in in Clay County — and ties to Trump, a popular credential among Republican primary voters in the district. Sapp served on the Trump Victory Finance Committee and is on the president’s re-election committee.
Perhaps most critically in this modern campaign age, Sapp’s fundraising appears to far outpace his competition. He reported raising $100,000 within the first eight hours of launching his campaign. Pope Wells had less than $10,000 cash on hand at the end of September, according to Florida Politics. Fundraising numbers for Millado were not readily available, but not expected to be noteworthy.
Sapp has also secured several helpful supporters, including Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died during the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Yoho has not yet made an official announcement, and remains a registered congressional candidate with the FEC, but that’s what’s legally required as long as he maintains the campaign accounts in their current form. The continued lack of campaign activity and fundraising efforts — especially against the backdrop of his former primary challenger Sapp’s campaign gaining momentum — sends a message that Yoho is ready to pack his bags and return home to the Sunshine State.
It’s a depressingly rare thing when politicians keep campaign promises, not to mention promises made before they were elected and had any real political power. Assuming Yoho makes official what all his actions are signaling, he deserves respect for keeping his word.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.