Political pundit Ford O’Connell has suspended his campaign to succeed Rep. Francis Rooney in Congress.
“After much thought and careful consideration, it is with a heavy heart I announce that I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for the FL-19 U.S. congressional seat,” he said.
The Naples Republican said he made the decision in part because of the community risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Lives are at stake. The time for action is now,” he said.
“As a result of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, we cannot run the type of campaign we wanted to run; one where we go to local events and meetings, schools and libraries, museums and restaurants, and speak to voters and hear about the issues that matter to them, where we get our message out face-to-face with citizens at the grassroots level through an exchange of ideas, having real conversations that matter, rather than in 30-second TV ads. Public safety is paramount, and an election where voters’ health may be endangered to run a campaign by, for, and of the people is not one in which I can in good conscience continue.”
O’Connell jumped into the race in December. He entered the race with some name recognition thanks to regular appearances on Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Radio, where he has been a regular defender of President Donald Trump.
O’Connell had gathered about $310,000 for his campaign as of the end of December, about $200,000 of that through a candidate loan.
He said he will donate the remainder of his campaign funds to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to my fiancé, Sarah, my family, my dedicated campaign staff, my friends and supporters; to everyone I spoke with over the past several months who shared their story, their concerns, their humanity – to each and every one of you – thank you. I am humbled by your support and by your belief in me and in what we stand for,” O’Connell said.
“We fought a good fight, and we should all be incredibly proud of that. Now, we turn our battle to a new horizon; one with much higher stakes and that will in the coming days and months impact us all. Stay safe. Stay strong. Together, there is nothing America can’t do. While this campaign has reached its end, know that I’m not done fighting for you, for Southwest Florida, and for our great nation.”
Eight Republicans remain in the running for the open seat.