Special Election Today in FL-19

The eighth special US House election since the inception of the current 113th Congress begins today. Voters in southwest Florida’s 19th Congressional District will choose nominees for the June 24 special general election.

Today’s action is exclusively in the Republican primary as four candidates battle to become the GOP standard bearer, hoping to succeed resigned Rep. Trey Radel (R). The eventual Republican nominee will face public relations executive April Freeman, who is unopposed in today’s special Democratic primary.

The 19th District, anchored in the cities of Ft. Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, and Marco Island, is solidly Republican. Mitt Romney defeated President Obama here in 2012 by a solid 61-39 percent count despite losing the state 49-50 percent. Four years earlier, John McCain commanded 57 percent support against then-Sen. Obama’s 42 percent. Prior to Radel winning the newly constructed and re-numbered 19th District in the last general election, the region was consecutively represented by GOP Reps. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14), Porter Goss (R-FL-14), and Connie Mack III (R-FL-13), since its original creation in 1982.

Two late polls both suggest that GOP businessman Curt Clawson will defeat state Senate Majority Leader Lisbeth Benacquisto, aviation consultant Michael Dreikorn, and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.

The latest survey, from Public Policy Polling for News Press WINK News (April 14-16; 669 FL-19 registered voters) finds Clawson, who has spent more than $2 million personally on his campaign and characterizes himself as “The Outsider,” leading 38-19-18-17 percent over Benacquisto, Dreikorn and Kreegel, respectively. Since the Florida system no longer employs a run-off as part of their nomination process, a plurality will secure the nomination tonight. Therefore, this poll projects Clawson as the clear favorite for tonight’s vote and suggests he holds an equivalent position for June.

The second survey, conducted earlier in the month from St. Pete Polls (April 9; 759 FL-19 registered voters), also posts Clawson to an advantage but the margins are much closer. According to this data, he leads the field 30-26-21-11 percent over Benacquisto, Kreegel and Dreikorn.

It’s clear that Clawson’s financial edge, and apparently his campaign theme, are placing distance between he and his GOP competitors.

The eventual winner will serve the balance of former Rep. Radel’s term in office. After the primary, on May 2, the candidates will have the opportunity of filing for the 2014 general election. The regular primary election is Aug. 26, meaning the winner will be in office exactly two months before standing for a new primary election for a full two-year term.

    Campaign spending through April 2, 2014:

  • Curt Clawson: $2.26 million
  • Lisbeth Benacquisto: $797,000
  • Paige Kreegel: $208,000
  • Michael Dreikorn: $15,000

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