By Jim EllisOct. 23, 2019 — Two-term Florida Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples) announced over the weekend that he would not seek election to a third term next year, thus FL-19 becomes the 27th open House seat for the current cycle.
Three of the open seats are vacant, meaning they will each go to special election to fill the balance of their respective terms. The trio of districts are: MD-7 (the late Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), and WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R). The Wisconsin election calendar has been set for a Feb. 18 special primary and May 12 general. Maryland election law dictates that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announce the 7th District special election calendar on or before Oct. 28. No calendar announcement has yet been made for the New York situation.
Rooney, despite serving in Congress for only a brief while, had been on the unofficial retirement watch list because he had raised only $6,600 cycle-to-date for his next campaign and is at odds with his party on several issues. The congressman is independently wealthy, so the low total was not solely an indication of his intention since he has the wherewithal to self-fund his campaigns. Rep. Rooney had been a Republican critic of President Trump, took the no corporate PAC contribution pledge, and indicated he may support the impeachment inquiry.
Florida’s 19th District is a safely Republican southwest Florida seat. President Trump carried the district, 60-37 percent, while Mitt Romney won here with a similar 60-39 percent margin. In his two elections, Rep. Rooney racked up victory percentages of 62 (2018) and 66 percent (2016).
In a similar configuration over four previous terms, then-Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) averaged 65 percent of the vote. And, after Mack left the House to run for the Senate, Republican Trey Radel, who a year later would be convicted for cocaine possession and forced to resign, scored a 62 percent victory in 2012. GOP businessman Curt Clawson followed with win margins of 67-29 percent in the 2014 special election, and then 65-33 percent in the regular election cycle before choosing not to seek re-election in 2016.
Therefore, it is probable that the next Republican primary winner will summarily be elected to the House in November, 2020. The 19th District contains two-thirds of Lee County along with approximately half of Collier County. Its main population centers are the Cape Coral, Ft. Myers, Naples, and Marco Island localities.