Naples Republican Francis Rooney isn’t ruling out a congressional bid.
The former ambassador to the Holy See said Saturday “it would be premature” to say he was considering a run. However, he said he is researching his options and intends to make a decision about whether to mount a bid for Congressional District 19 in the coming days.
The news of his interest, which was first reported by the Naples Daily News, comes one month after Rooney said he wasn’t going to run for the U.S. Senate.
Rooney seriously considered mounting a U.S. Senate bid, but said in April it wasn’t the right time to jump in the Senate race. In a statement at the time, Rooney said the country needed “business people in public office who have made actual payrolls and created jobs.”
“We need to promote policies which are grounded in free enterprise and individual freedom instead of the government and which will stimulate wage growth and expansion of the economy,” he said in an April statement to FloridaPolitics.com about his decision not to run for U.S. Senate. “I know we can do this and look forward to working to advance these issues.”
Rooney, the CEO of Rooney Holdings, is a top Republican fundraiser, who has spent decades behind the scenes helping Republican candidates. He is long-time friend and supporter of the Bush family, helping President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush get elected.
He was appointed to serve as the ambassador to the Vatican in 2005 by President George W. Bush. He served in that role until 2008.
On Saturday, Rooney said he is taking a few days to research whether he wants to jump in to the race.
“I think our federal system requires strong, vigorous debate and legislative decision,” he said.
Rep. Curt Clawson announced Thursday he wasn’t running for re-election in Congressional District 19. In a statement, the Bonita Springs Republican said he wanted to spend more time at home with his family.
The announcement, which came about a month before the qualifying period and just over 100 days from the Aug. 30 primary, sent Republicans scrambling to consider their options. The congressional district — which includes coastal Collier and most of Lee counties — is a Republican stronghold, and the winner of the Aug. 30 Republican primary will most likely go on to win the seat in November.
Sanibel Island Republican Chauncey Goss announced Thursday night he was running for the seat. Goss ran in 2012, coming in second behind Fort Myers Republican Trey Radel, who ultimately won the seat. Radel resigned in January 2014 following a drug scandal.
Goss may be the only Republican officially in the race, but many others have said they are considering their options.
Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto, who came in second in the 2014 special election to replace Clawson, said Friday she planned to “take the next few days to think about how I can best serve our community.” Benacquisto has already filed to run for re-election in the Florida Senate, and would have to give up a re-election bid to run for Congress.
Dane Eagle and Matt Caldwell, Lee County Republicans, are also considering their options, although their decision will ultimately hinge on what Benacquisto decides.
Former state Rep. Paige Kreegel is also considering getting in to the race, according to POLITICO Florida. Kreegel ran for the seat in both 2012 and 2014.
Byron Donalds, another 2012 contender and a Naples Republican, said also said he is considering his options. He has filed to run for the Florida House in District 80.
The Naples Daily News on Saturday reported former state House Rep. Tom Grady and Naples City Councilman Sam Saad are also considering the seat.