The race has changed under Florida Gulf Coast University professor Cindy Banyai’s feet. Originally a challenger to incumbent U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, she held less than $1,000 in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter of 2019.
But with Rooney’s retirement, she has stepped up fundraising, Banyai pulled in $13,208 over the last three months of 2019. She started 2020 with $10,889 as her level of activity stepped up in line.
That’s still modest compared to Republican candidates in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. She has marked a significant step up in fundraising, but she’s raised less than any candidate to post a report.
The Fort Myers Democrat said she’s built up her war chest almost completely with small donations from individuals.
Banyai said she has 218 individual donations with contributions averaging $37.60, which is “higher than other grassroots fundraising champions like Bernie Sanders.”
“Campaigns should not be bought and sold by people at the top of our economic system,” she said.
And she hasn’t put a candidate loan into the race.
Banyai faces financial advisor David Holden, the 2018 Democratic nominee in the district. Holden reported $58,078 contributions in the fourth quarter, along with a $45,000 contribution.
But Banyai said she feels good about the momentum in her race, especially since landing the endorsement of No Dem Left Behind.
“I can say that we had a great December because of our coordination with No Dem Left Behind and the Senior Advisors and Finance Director we formally brought on in November,” she said.
The district remains ruby red even if Banyai gets past Holden in the primary. Rooney in 2018 defeated Holden by a margin of 24%.
Meanwhile, the eight Republican candidates have collectively raised well over $1 million between aggressive fundraising and self-funding.
Republicans in the race include state Reps. Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzenhagen and Byron Donalds, Naples urologist William Figlesthaler, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, former Minnesota lawmaker Dan Severson, conservative pundit Ford O’Connell and former New York Mayoral candidate Darren Dione Aquino.
Independent Antonio DuMornay has filed to challenge whomever Democrats and Republicans nominate.