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Darren Aquino, William Figlesthaler

2020

GOP congressional candidate accuses opponent of trying to muscle him out of the race

Figlesthaler said opponent has no business being in the race.

Naples congressional candidate William Figlesthaler met with Republican primary opponent Darren Aquino, but the two candidates offer differing accounts of the conversation.

The two candidates are among eight Republicans running to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney.

Aquino said when he agreed to meet with Figlesthaler, he thought it possible the Naples urologist would drop out. “I met with him to see if he was going to join me,” Aquino said.

Instead, Aquino said Figlesthaler tried to get him out if the race and offered an incentive to do so. In addition to promising to champion veterans’ issues, a priority of Aquino’s own campaign, Aquino said Figlesthaler asked him to be his “chief of staff.”

The conversation ended quickly, Aquino said, when the men discussed issues and Aquino said he believed all Americans had the right to access to health care, and Figlesthaler said he disagreed.

“I showed him the door,” Aquino said.

Figlesthaler, though, said that he made no such an offer, and does not want Aquino’s support.

“100% false,” Figlesthaler said. “Wouldn’t hire him if he were the last guy on Earth.”

Figlesthaler has raised more than $126,000 for the race and loaned his campaign $410,000.

He said he indeed met with Aquino, though he said that was at the request of the disabilities advocate.

“Aquino reached out to our staff a couple of months ago,” Aquino said. “We were finally able to sit down three weeks ago. Needless to say, he has more than a few screws loose. I told him he has no business running for office.”

Figlesthaler said he did not discuss how Aquino should leave the race but said he should not be in the race. He called his opponent a “total nut job.”

Aquino and his camp said it was unethical to reach out to another campaign to try and push them to withdraw.

Aquino did not raise enough money in his first quarter to warrant a campaign report, but he told Florida Politics he has raised around $21,000 between his $10,000 of his own and support from family and friends. He’s also cousins with the founder of Arizona Iced Tea and said money will not be a problem in the race.

Aquino maintains Figlesthaler reached out through campaign officials to him and his campaign manager, Kato Jenkins.

But Figlesthaler said he doesn’t think Aquino represents a significant constituency in the first place.

“Certainly was not concerned with earning his support,” Figlesthaler said. “I don’t think he has any.”

Written By

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 jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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