In two terms representing Florida's 6th Congressional District, Michael Waltz has burnished his conservative résumé with his elevation to ranking member on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, and regular appearances on Fox News.
Yet he faces a primary challenge from Charles Davis, a pro-Trump political neophyte who argues Waltz fails to follow the "America First" agenda. The race has a Davis-and-Goliath feel, as Federal Election Commission reports show Waltz has collected $2.4 million for his re-election, while Davis had no campaign finance information listed as of Aug. 4.
The GOP winner will go on to a general election without any Democratic opposition against Libertarian Joe Hannoush.
Volusia County Council District 4: Explosive development, taxes, environment on minds of candidates
The 6th District's boundaries have shifted and no longer cover all of Volusia County. Instead, it now spans across Flagler and Putnam counties, and into parts of St. Johns, Marion and Lake counties, as well as the northern half of Volusia.
Waltz — who won the seat after Ron DeSantis departed during his run for governor — is known as the first member of Congress who served as a Green Beret. He also worked as a special adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Since his last election, Waltz, 48, of St. Augustine, has experienced big changes in his life, including marrying Julia Nesheiwat, former Homeland Security advisor in the Trump administration. The couple had a son, Armie, in January, while Waltz also has a daughter in college. Also, in November 2020, PAE, a defense-services contractor, announced it was purchasing Metis Solutions Corp., a defense and contracting firm Waltz helped start and run following his tenure in the White House. On a financial disclosure form filed in August 2021, Waltz declared the sale netted him between $5 million and $25 million.
Davis, 60, of Palm Coast, is a financial investor with a background in real estate mortgages and venture capital. He said he has been involved in development projects of up to 3,000 acres in Florida, California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
“I’ve been in mortgages for over 35 years and I’ve never been been alleged or charged or had an accusation for me being fraudulent,” Davis said.
Davis criticized Waltz for making money on the Metis sale before the U.S. pullout of Afghanistan. “Don’t take my word for it. Go to the Intercept,” he said, in reference to an investigative report examining the sale.
“I’m running on the Constitution and the fact that (Waltz) sold his company two weeks before we ran out of Afghanistan,” Davis said.
The sale actually occurred nine months before the Afghanistan pullout.
Waltz defends conservative record
Waltz, who was not available for an interview this week, did not respond to an emailed question seeking a response to Davis' criticism of the Metis deal. Through a spokesman, Waltz did provide a statement about his work in Congress and what he hopes to accomplish looking ahead.
"I'm proud of my conservative record and to have President Trump's complete endorsement as we fight to fire Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi. After the election, I look forward to continue spearheading legislation focused on securing our border, addressing the threat from China, stopping the reckless spending that has cause inflation and holding the Biden Administration accountable for its multiple disasters at home and abroad," Waltz said.
In the House, Waltz has consistently spoken out on foreign affairs and defense matters. He has advocated for stronger U.S. involvement in both Afghanistan and Ukraine.
In the leadup to Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, Waltz warned repeatedly that many American allies there would be left behind. He continued that criticism throughout the withdrawal and as recently as Thursday tweeted: "It's been ONE YEAR since Biden's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and our allies are being hunted down by the Taliban. Biden left THOUSANDS of our brave interpreters to die. We must #FinishTheMission and bring our allies home."
He went on Fox News to point out that the recent U.S. drone-killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the planners of the 9/11 attacks, shows the Taliban is hosting al-Qaeda "like it was pre-9/11 and the intel community has reported that they fully intend to hit us again."
"The bad news is al-Qaeda is back in Afghanistan just like they were pre-9/11, and not only are they back, he was staying in the guest house of the Taliban's interior minister," he told Fox News.
On Ukraine, Waltz argued the Biden administration should have been more aggressive in offering lethal aid faster, calling for anti-air and anti-ship missiles that would have deterred the Russian army.
Waltz was part of a congressional delegation that met on July 23 with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and toured sites of Russian atrocities. Afterward, he said Zelenskyy feels like Ukraine is slowly losing and the U.S. has only helped him play for a tie.
China has been a matter of continuing concern for Waltz. He pushed for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics and participated in a TV advertisement with NBA player and outspoken China critic Enes Kanter Freedom decrying the genocide and slavery of the ethnic minority Uighurs. NBC refused to air the ad during the Olympics.
In June 2021, Waltz questioned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the inclusion of critical race theory in courses at West Point and a seminar, "Understanding Whiteness and White Rage."
"This came to me from cadets, from families, from soldiers with their alarm and their concern at how divisive this type of teaching is, that is rooted in Marxism, that classifies people along class lines an entire race of people as oppressor and oppressed. I cannot think of anything more divisive and more destructive to unit morale," Waltz said a hearing.
In his prepared statement for The News-Journal, Waltz referenced the CRT issue.
"As the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Military Readiness and soon-to-be chairman when we take back the House, I look forward to ensuring that our military is modernized, that critical race theory is removed from our military academies and that our soldiers get the resources they need to keep up the fight," he said.
Waltz was among more than 100 House Republicans who signed on in support of Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton's lawsuit in 2020 challenging the electoral results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and and Wisconsin. He called the suit "very legitimate, very thorough," but the Supreme Court turned down the case.
Following the Capitol incursion on Jan. 6, 2021, Waltz voted in favor of certifying the election results, but defended the president's actions leading up to the riot and spoke out against the second Trump impeachment.
Trump, in a statement issued by his Save America PAC, wrote: "Michael Waltz is a relentless fighter for the incredible people of Florida. … Mike Waltz is strong on China, the border, the Second Amendment and our brave military and vets. Mike has my complete and total endorsement!"
Davis: 'Fed up with the nonsense'
Davis, who has been endorsed by the Florida Republican Assembly, questioned Trump’s endorsement of Waltz: “There’s only two ways Mr. Trump makes endorsements. One is a letter from Donald Trump saying he’s endorsing for 2022 or an endorsement onstage. … I'm pretty sure Waltz does not have that letter. I’m pretty sure Trump has not went on stage."
Davis noted Waltz was among the “never-Trump” Republicans in 2015, prior to Trump taking the GOP nomination in 2016.
Davis is a believer in the baseless claim that Trump won the 2020 election.
"Trump won, absolutely, without a doubt in my mind," he said, citing pillow salesman Mike Lindell and the largely debunked "2000 Mules" film by Dinesh D'Souza among his sources.
In contrast with Waltz's interventionist views, Davis contends an “America First” agenda should start with limiting U.S. involvement in world affairs, including Ukraine.
Davis was asked if he agrees with Waltz's vote in favor of the recent Respect for Marriage Act, reaffirming gay marriages.
"Hell, no," Davis said. "I'm not against people being gay, but I can tell you one thing: I'm thinking the Bible doesn't say Adam and Steve. The Bible does say Adam and Eve."
Davis advocates for prayer in school.
"We're all children of the most highest power and we're all Christians and we always know it's God first, man second and then we can take care of our country," he says in a video on his website.
From another video: If you are indeed believe in God and you have faith in God and you have faith in President Trump, then you can always assure to have faith in Charles Davis."
He vows to fight socialism.
"We the people will take back our government and create capitalism again. It's not a sin to go ahead and make money and enjoy life," he said. "But it is a sin and it is not good for all of us that are continuing to live the life of the people that we elect that are living on their own agenda and not taking our agenda first."
He summed up his view on the United States of 2022.
“I’m fed up with the nonsense," Davis said. "Do I have a problem paying Joe Biden taxes? No. I do have a problem when Joe Biden is trying to run the United States as a socialist country.”
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This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: U.S. Rep. MIchael Waltz faces GOP challenger Charles Davis in election