William Figlesthaler shifts campaign messaging toward public health
Dr. William Figlesthaler, a candidate for Congress, says his campaign will focus on helping people through the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Jacob Ogles

His campaign launched a hotline and website to interface with people about COVID-19.

Amid a coronavirus pandemic, Naples Dr. William Figlesthaler said the messaging for his Congressional campaign will shift dramatically.

The Republican candidate will continue running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. But his campaign advertisements, known for unconventional tone and placement, will be replaced with public-service-announcement-style spots.

“I will divert all attention away from campaigning and toward combatting this virus,” the urologist said.

Figlesthaler announced the change in campaign activity at a Fort Myers press conference while wearing his Encore Urology lab coat.

His campaign started the year with $506,754 in cash on hand, $410,000 of it from a candidate loan.

Those resources will be used now to set up a hotline (239-424-9868) and a website (NeedHelpAsk.com) devoted to helping individuals concerned with the coronavirus outbreak.

There have been 11 positive cases for COVID-19 in Lee County, including two deaths, and 13 cases in Collier County, according to the Department of Health.

There already are resources surrounding the coronavirus through local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control.

Asked why individuals should call a campaign number instead of utilizing public resources, Figlesthaler said it’s a different service being provided.

“This is a grassroots resource,” he said. The phone lines and web chats will be manned by precinct captains from Marco Island to Cape Coral, individuals that know particular communities.”

Figlesthaler also said these resources will benefit from his own medical knowledge and connections within the field.

“Think of this as a 24-hour live bulletin board that includes my colleagues,” he said.

The change was something Figlesthaler described as “difficult but necessary” under current circumstances. All on-the-ground campaigning will cease for the moment out of safety concerns for the public and his campaign staff.

But he stressed that as soon as the health concern has subsided, his campaign will be ready to go back into full swing.

Figlesthaler also said at the press conference that his campaign has collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

His campaign on March 11 sent out a campaign email that encouraged health precautions among the public.

“Here is the good news: Despite some media reports, your overall chance of contracting the virus is currently incredibly low. Secondly, due to our high health standards, the survival rate of those who do contract the virus is expected to remain very high,” the email read.

Figlesthaler stood by that, while stressing precautions like social distancing.

“The vast majority of people do recover,” he said. “Mass panic and hysteria doesn’t help.”

Figlesthaler is one of eight Republicans running to succeed Rep. Francis Rooney.

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].


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