GOP prospects in CD 19 assess the competition in a potentially huge field
Herd of elephants.

Who will pull ahead of the herd?

With a Congressional seat open in Southwest Florida, there’s no shortage of Republicans considering running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

While nobody seems ready to pull the trigger, Florida Politics asked prospective candidates who, besides themselves, stood the best chance in the GOP primary.

Dane Eagle, state House Majority Leader, offered retired Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott“He is beloved by all, especially me. He could easily win the election and would make Southwest Florida very proud in Congress.”

Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman noted he likely will serve on a canvassing board if he doesn’t run, so he chose his words carefully so as not to show bias. “I will say that Dane Eagle and [state Rep.] Byron Donalds had a really good week last week,” Hamman said. “Dane appeared with Gov. [Ron] DeSantis at the C-43 groundbreaking. Byron appeared with the President. I think CD 19 is going to support the candidate who they think will help President Trump accomplish his agenda.”

State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen seemed to reference Donalds as well in her own assessment of the field. “One of the things I would like to see for the Republican Party is maybe more diversity,” the Fort Myers Republican said, “so therefore, I might be looking at some of the candidates from Collier County who would bring that. But that is about just the overarching needs to the party, not necessarily the skill set or the experience of the individual that might do the best job in Washington.”

Multiple candidates suggested an outside factor could toss aside conventional wisdom, as it has in Southwest Florida before.

Chauncey Goss, chair of the South Florida Water Management District, has run for the seat before. He’s wondering if some name pops up that nobody knows. “I believe the strongest potential contender excluding myself is the mystery candidate who has considerable wealth and is willing to self-fund to quickly build name ID,” he said. “Both Rep. [Curt] Clawson and Rep. [Francis} Rooney took this path successfully in the last two contested primaries. Not coincidentally, it cost both of them approximately $4 million in personal funds to achieve their victories.”

Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass feels confident how he compares against other politicians in the field. But who knows about a self-funder. “The only contender is the millionair who can self fund their race,” he said. “The others are not an issue due to special interests. We need a strong presence and consistent message for our area of swfl (Southwest Florida)!”

Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers state Representative, knows who shouldn’t run in 2020— himself. As for the field, he also noted the last two to win the seat, Rooney and Clawson, weren’t politically active before running. “The biggest name may be the one no one knows,” Roach said.

But not everyone is talking. Florida Politics reached out to a dozen candidates and half did not respond. And not all who did saw value in the exercise of speculating on opposition just yet.

Bob Rommel, a Naples state Representative, won’t offer up other names easily. “Not sure I want to show others my play book,” he said.

And state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, deflected the query with praise for his peers. “I think you hear from all of us when we talk about our time and service together, we all have great admiration  for watch other,” she said. “We do consider ourselves a family, and our comments and thoughts about each other are well documented.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Jack Fenton

    November 1, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Mike Scott is NOT in any way a good candidate. Several years ago,as I was investigating the death of a man, apparently a suicide, and Scott’s involvement with Dick Spence. Spence, a felon convicted of money laundering for the Cali cartel.

    I got a very angry email from Mr. Scott when raising questions. He said that he would not allow me to question any of his deputies, and I could not question his PIO, Larry King (yes, I know). How can a man like that even be considered for a higher public office.

    That’s one hell of a functional leader, and nobody can be bothered writing the story up!! I did, with several others at the News-Press, but it got shoved to the wrong pile (the “let’s keep things on the straight and level and lie to our readers” pile).

    Have a GREAT day, Jacob. Another south Florida disappointment.

    This private, encrypted account sits behind two or more servers all over the world, and are switched every day. It is quite safe to be frank or offer a tip. Send an email to this address and I will give you the key to open your mail.
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