There’s an easy way out of the chaos in the House, led by a Florida man who’s leaning on lessons learned in his decades as a firefighter and basketball player: Representative Carlos Giménez, the general leading the Only Kevin charge.
For some in Congress, the literal Only Kevin pins they wore back in January were as ephemeral as a Nancy Mace promise. But for Giménez, it’s about refusing to reward bad behavior and about loyalty to the man who recruited him to run for his current job.
“There was an injustice done” in Giménez’s eyes, he tells me in his Capitol Hill office. “I think that the 96 percent [of House Republicans who voted to keep McCarthy last week] bent to rule of the 4 [percent]. Everybody talks about the majority here. Well, 96 percent is a pretty big frickin’ majority. And so why are we bending to the will of the four?” With McCarthy, “here’s a guy that had 210 votes a week ago Tuesday”; meanwhile, the Republicans’ next nominee, Steve Scalise, cobbled together half of that before bowing out of the race almost immediately.
So where to from here? To Giménez, it’s obvious: “Kevin McCarthy has the infrastructure. He has the knowledge. He worked his tail off to give us the majority. He is a great campaigner. Somebody that will not only keep the majority but increase the majority. And so there is no need to find a new leader in my estimation. The only reason we’re looking is because 4 percent, eight people in our conference, decided to join the other 208 Democrats.”
Unlike many, Giménez didn’t even have much of a desire to be in Congress to begin with. He was content being the Miami-Dade mayor (as opposed to Miami mayor, Francis Suarez, who he treats with almost as much contempt as he does Fidel Castro). But McCarthy made the case that Giménez alone could flip a blue seat red, and the rest is history. “He brought me to the dance. You stay with who brought you to the dance. There’s nothing that he’s done that would alter my loyalty to him. The reason I’m here is because Kevin McCarthy recruited me,” he says, as he points to a picture of him, his wife and the former speaker, that hangs on his office wall.
The past few weeks have been clarifying to the Floridian. “Some people here seem to be insecure. They need to be surrounded by a crowd.” Giménez says that he and Matt Gaetz used to have a somewhat cordial relationship, saying hi to each other in the halls of Congress. That’s over now; Giménez actually walked out of one of the House GOP meetings this week when Gaetz took the floor because “I don’t care to listen to him.”
The antics of Gaetz and his crew threw “this Congress in disarray, into chaos, our conference into disarray, chaos when it was completely unnecessary. Especially since whoever’s gonna replace Kevin McCarthy — which I hope nobody does because I want him back — their plan was exactly the same plan as McCarthy’s. So why in the world are we replacing Kevin McCarthy? When they’re all upset about a [continuing resolution] and the possibility of a [continuing resolution] and yet Jim Jordan’s plan is to have a [continuing resolution].”
However deceitful Giménez thinks Gaetz was with the speaker shenanigans, he takes the congressman at his word when he says that this saga has nothing to do with Gaetz’s rumored 2026 campaign for governor of Florida. In fact, Giménez takes Gaetz at his word when he says that he is not going to run for governor at all. “Do I believe him? Oddly enough, I do. Why would he say that categorically that he was not running for governor?” If Gaetz were to run, he would instead have dissembled, “but he didn’t, he said no.”
Despite his problems with Gaetz, Giménez has zero desire to punish him or any of the Republicans who sided with him and every House Democrat in ousting McCarthy. “I’m not sure they should be [punished]. They didn’t violate any rules, they took advantage of the rules that were in front of them, so why are we thinking about punishing them? As much as I hate what they did… we should have fought back, using the rules.”
It’s about loyalty to McCarthy for Giménez far more than it is personal friendship with the former speaker. The two rarely even spend that much time together, but for Giménez, the precedent that the past few weeks have set is one that Republicans will regret unless they get their act together quickly.
Ever since McCarthy was dethroned, Giménez has waged this war by himself publicly, drawing on lessons from both his fire department and the basketball court he dominated in his younger days — but he knows that many of his fellow House Republicans are waiting in the wings to join him. As a firefighter, “sometimes you take the nozzle and you go into the fire, usually you have some people behind you. But I don’t need emotional support” and at 5’10”, he wasn’t always the tallest person on the court, but he wouldn’t let anyone outwork him.
During my interview, one of McCarthy’s many recent Fox News interviews aired live, with Giménez eagerly nodding along to the points the California Republican made about everything from Israel to the speaker’s race.
While truly no one knows how this all ends up, for the moment, everything is coming up Carlos. Following Steve Scalise’s shocking withdrawal from the speaker’s race, Representative Tom McClintock wrote to his colleagues saying “ENOUGH,” and urging them to return to McCarthy — a move immediately backed by Giménez.
Unlike some of his colleagues, Giménez doesn’t want to go down with his ship. As soon as McCarthy tells him to stop, it’s over. When I asked if he’s concerned that a non-McCarthy speaker might punish him for his adamance for McCarthy, he’s at peace with his decision. “There’s nothing here I want, there’s nothing here I need,” he says. “I was the mayor of Miami-Dade County for ten years. Do you really think that a chairmanship is something that is super important to me?”
The future is uncertain. But for now, Giménez and his infamous OK pin aren’t going anywhere.