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‘Mean girl on a revenge tour’: Kevin McCarthy has knives out for his ‘Gaetz 8’ tormentors

WASHINGTON — Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy may have been publicly beat down before being booted out of power after just 269 days on the job, but his presence is still being felt in the GOP.

And McCarthy’s got some scores to settle first.

McCarthy’s allies have been on the offense against some of the eight far-right Republicans who cost him his coveted speaker’s gavel last fall and prompted his resignation in December.

Super Tuesday provides McCarthyites an opportunity: Three of the House GOP’s “Gaetz Eight,” as they’ve been dubbed in some corners of Capitol Hill, are on their state’s respective primary ballots. More primaries will soon follow.

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While a longshot, McCarthy’s set on exacting revenge at the ballot box and knocking them out. He’s raising campaign cash for their primary opponents, rallying the old GOP guard to challenge these incumbents and, whenever possible, undercutting and belittling them with what little stature the third shortest serving speaker in U.S. history still maintains.

Many Republicans say this was inevitable after what the former speaker had to so publicly endure.

“Politics is a contact sport. They wanted to get rid of Kevin, were they going to assume he wasn’t going to retaliate? That’s human nature,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) told Raw Story. “That’s what I knew was going to happen.”

“What’s that say about him?” Raw Story inquired. “Isn’t that literally kind of making their case? Putting personality over party?”


U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) leaves the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 14, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“I don’t think so. People hold grudges,” Donalds said. “I would just say this: If there’s a job I’ve been trying to get for 20 years, and you take that away from me, you think I’m just turning the other cheek? Nope. I’m not. I’m not surprised, and they shouldn’t be either.”

Others in the party are angry, especially because they say the former speaker amassed huge sums of political money purely because donors trusted him to help maintain Republicans’ majority in the House.

“People are really pissed?” Raw Story inquired.

“They should be,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) told Raw Story. “Let’s use it to advance conservative principles. Anything but vendettas. It’s not right. I don’t know how he feels good about that.”

Norman’s fellow South Carlonian, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), has the biggest target on her back from McCarthy, and she’s been letting it be known that she’s warring with McCarthy.

“He’s acting like a mean girl on a revenge tour,” Mace told Raw Story. “It’s mind numbing. I’ve always been against the establishment, and you’re going to recruit the establishment to run against me?”


Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) listens during an House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Feb. 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“The establishment” means Catherine Templeton, an attorney who former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) tapped to be her director of Labor, Licensing and Regulation before she came in third in the Republican Party’s 2018 gubernatorial primary.

Templeton did not reply to an interview request, but she recently netted the endorsement of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and her campaign claims moment is building ahead of South Carolina’s June 11 Republican primary.

Mace laughs off the full court press from what she sees as the Washington establishment.

“He could not have picked a worse opponent,” Mace said. “She’s a puppet to Kevin McCarthy. Like, that doesn’t sell in my district. My district wants someone who’s going to be conservative, but an independent voice. They don’t want a puppet to Kevin McCarthy.”

‘He didn’t stay’

A week after South Carlonians vote — on June 18, 2024 — Virginia Republicans will decide whether to stick with Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) or ditch the newly minted chair of the far-right Freedom Caucus for Virginia state Sen. John McGuire (R).

McGuire netted the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) after Good initially endorsed former Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in this year’s presidential primary. And last quarter, McGuire outraised Good by a few thousand dollars, which is not a good position for an incumbent to be in.

In January, Good tried to cuddle up to Trump by endorsing him after DeSantis bowed out. While Good is now moving to the MAGA end of the GOP spectrum, and he laughs off McCarthy’s presence in his district.

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“I think he ought to come and campaign for my opponent. He’s funding my opponent’s campaign. I think my opponent should bring him in to campaign for him. I think that’d be terrific,” Good told Raw Story.

The barbs in the contest are getting swampy.

“I don’t think the people of the 5th District [of Virginia] are gonna let their seat be bought by D.C.-California swamp interests, but that’s clearly who’s funding my opponent’s campaign,” Good said. “Heck, McCarthy’s bragging — his affiliates are bragging about their funding this campaign and others — so I think they ought to just come and campaign for my opponent. That’d be terrific.”

Further south, in Tennessee, Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) has been able to fend off potential primary challengers, in part by having Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) come down to host a fundraiser for him in February.


U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) speaks to the media during a House Republican candidates forum where congressmen who are running for Speaker of the House presented their platforms in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill on Oct. 23, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Burchett has had a bone to pick with McCarthy since the former speaker allegedly elbowed him in the back at the U.S. Capitol. And there’s a lot of time between now and the state’s GOP primary on Aug. 1, 2024.

“I knew he was going to. I knew it when I made that decision. I knew he’d use his $17 million that was given to him by Republicans to beat Democrats, obviously. But that’s the world we live in,” Burchett told Raw Story about McCarthy striking back.

“Does this show you were right?” Raw Story asked.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Burchett said. “He didn’t stay. You know he said he cared about the party, but then he leaves after he’s dethroned and puts us in a worse spot. So I think that shows exactly — and it goes back to the last thing he said to me was, ‘I really want to be speaker.’”

Sharp elbows

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) is the only member of the Gaetz Eight that pushed McCarthy out who’s retiring after this year. He’s not surprised McCarthy’s trying to weigh into local GOP politics.

“It’s Kevin. That’s why he had trouble leading us, because it’s who he is,” Buck told Raw Story.

“It’s akin to hitting somebody in the back with an elbow.”

Close McCarthy confidant Brian O. Walsh — a consultant with Red Print Strategy — is spearheading the longshot effort, as Politico first reported. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

McCarthy may be active behind the political scenes, but on Capitol Hill he’s become largely an afterthought.

“He couldn’t beat us in Washington, you think he’s gonna beat us playing an away game?” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said to Raw Story through a laugh.


U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2024 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

One thing’s clear, there’s no McCarthy remorse from the “Gaetz Eight.”

“That’s his prerogative. He’s a private citizen now, he can do what he wants,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) told Raw Story.

Many other Republicans want to stay out of the mini-civil war still raging in their party.

“What do you think of McCarthy going after some of your colleagues from beyond the grave? Or from the grave?” Raw Story asked.

“You said that, I did not,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) replied through a laugh. “I’m not a big fan of internecine warfare.”

Perry is the recent former head of the fringe-right Freedom Caucus — a group that was a constant thorn in McCarthy’s side before evolving and derailing Johnson’s speakership agenda.

Regardless of whether Perry’s a fan, it seems internecine warfare follows the Freedom Caucus wherever it goes.

That’s why McCarthy still has many cheerleaders in Congress, especially now that the party’s most far-right wing has blocked, gutted and then opposed all efforts to fund the government long-term during this divided session of Congress.

“The ding dongs wouldn’t vote for it, because I guess it looks like they wanted to hang McCarthy,” a senior California Republican who asked for anonymity to discuss his colleagues told Raw Story, before they added. “I’m glad for him.”

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