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This is a mirror of an article on my main website,  The images I use are too high-res to be uploaded in the image queue, so go to this link to see the entire article, images attached.

Republicans will go to the polls on April 22nd (well, those who haven’t voted by mail yet) to cast a ballot for what has turned into a very contentious primary for Congressional District 19 in Florida.  The district, part of the the southwest suburbs of Florida, has a vacancy thanks to the resignation of Congressmen Trey Radel.  Radel resigned following his conviction for cocaine possession, the first incumbent congressman to be convicted for that charge.  The race has turned into an incredibly costly and bloody affair.  The district is composed of most of Lee county in its north and the coast of Collier County.

The race is largely between three individuals.  The perceived front-runner was State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto.  Benacquisto has been in the state senate since 2010 and serves as Majority Leader in the chamber.  She is an ally of Don Gaetz, the powerful Senate President.  Benacquisto’s state senate seat covers a large portion of Lee County and she is familiar in the area.  Benacquisto’s initial main challenger was Paige Kreegel, a former state representative who came in third in the Republican primary in 2012 for the then-open seat.  Kreegel’s district only encompassed a few precincts in the northern end of the district, but his appearance on a Republican ballot for the district is a plus for him.  Businessman Curt Clawson, who made his fortune with Hayes Lemmerz, a company that made wheels and brakes for cars, also jumped into the race.  Clawson quickly grew his support by self-funding his campaign to the tune of over $2.6 million as of the latest finance reports.  Benacquisto, meanwhile, has raised $1 million, and Kreegel has raised over $200,000.  Clawson’s self-funding has made him a serious contender for winning the seat.

They campaign has devolved into a very negative affair.  Clawson has focused his messaging on building himself as an outsider, trying to latch onto the Tea Party movement that has swept many anti-establishment politicians into office.  Clawson has secured the endorsements of Michele Bachmann, Rand Paul, and other tea party leaders.  He has hammered Benacquisto and Kreegel as establishment politicians.  Meanwhile, Clawson has come under heavy fire for his business dealings..  Under Clawson’s days leading Hayes Lemmerz, the company laid off thousands, closed plants, and was subject to investigations for the death of a worker in a plant explosion.  In addition, Clawson has come under fire for his business ties to a man convicted of sexual assault on a minor.  A particularly interesting development in the campaign occurred when Clawson showed up at a press conference being held by his other opponents that they were using to attack his ties to the convicted man.  In the last few weeks Clawson has focused is attacks on all the attacks against him, decrying the negative campaign.  Clawson started running an ad with a beach background ocean noise with a text scroll saying he wanted to give voters a break from the negativity.  Benacquisto, meanwhile, has been trying to sure-up her support with social conservatives; getting the endorsements of Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.  She has touted her pro-life position, opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  The race is largely seen as coming down to a fight between Benacquisto and Clawson.  Clawson’s money has made him competitive, but if he wins, it may be on the back of the anti-establishment wave.

Click here to read the rest of the article and view high-res photos of election results in the district

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Comment Preferences

  •  Do Dems (0+ / 0-)

    Have a reasonable shot at this seat or no? Also lol

    Radel resigned following his conviction for cocaine possession, the first incumbent congressman to be convicted for that charge.  

    That actually surprises me that he's the first. Suppose he can throw it on his resume!
  •  A Clawson win further splits Republicans (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks, your diary gives us all a good scouting report on the moving pieces (candidates and constituencies) that make up the large Republican registration plurality on Florida's Southwest coast where R's out number D's by nearly 100,000 voters in Lee and Collier Counties.

    In 2012 the Tea Party won out sending snorter Radel (another election won by a Republican with a Radio Talk Show) to Congress and from the recently available polling Curt Clawson appears to have a lead.

    If Clawson wins besides showing the influence of money it will also reinforce the proposition that the Tea Party exerts more control over the Primary voting population than the business and social conservative constituencies in one of Florida's reddest areas.

    It may show the new power of money in today's elections can marry business interests to the Tea Party and effectively making the Republican Party of Florida impotent to counter any big spender who chooses to buy an elected office a la Rick Scott who made his home in this District.

    A Clawson victory would show even more weakness within the Florida Republican Party that was married to Rick Scott in what could be seen as a golden shotgun wedding.

    This Congressional District R over D registration advantage is in the high teens making this Primary winner the odds on winner to be the next Congress member.

    Should Clawson win things look better for Florida Democrats as the Republican power brokers come to understand their Party's power structure cannot influence effective control over their own Primary voters in their most concentrated Republican stronghold weakening their overall power in Florida's 2014 Elections.

    "A functioning Democracy must defy economic interests of the elites on behalf of citizens" Christopher Hedges Econ 3.50&Soc. 5.79

    by wmc418 on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 04:57:37 AM PDT

    •  A quick note on Tery's nomination (0+ / 0-)

      This is one a handful of FL districts where the more moderate legal residents (6 mos + 1 day for tax purposes) are back up north in August, not really caring about the primary (presidential in January, YES), leaving local nominations to the more conservative, year-rounders.

  •  "Very negative" (0+ / 0-)

    is putting it mildly -- this is an outright mudfest!

    My mom voted for Kreegel as he seemed to her to be more ... real than Benaquisto, the establishment-choice career politician, and Clawson, whose massive wealth so young turned her off in the end.

    If I were to wager, my money would be on Clawson.

    For a Democrat to win here, it would require a MASSIVE got-out-the-vote (Florida has no-excuse absentee voting) effort from the local Dems, along with a truly divided Republican base, a highly unlikely combination.

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