The Republican field is set in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, and it’s bigger than expected.
State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen qualified for the race shortly before the noon deadline, defying speculation she may instead seek local or state office. The Fort Myers Republican became the 10th Republican to qualify in the crowded field.
The primary ballot is set now to feature a range of self-funders, state lawmakers and local activists.
Fast food mogul Casey Askar, state Rep. Byron Donalds, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, former Minnesota lawmaker Dan Severson, Collier County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Kowal, Ave Maria University law graduate Christy McLaughlin and former New York City mayoral candidate Darren Aquino ultimately qualified for the Republican primary.
Democrats David Holden and Cindy Banyai will face each other in the Democratic primary. Write-in candidate Patrick Post will face the Democrat and Republican nominee in November.
Ultimately, most of the candidates stuck it out at least through qualifying. Pundit Ford O’Connell dropped out in March. Independent Antonio Dumornay, who originally filed as a Republican, failed to qualify for the ballot as of the noon deadline Friday.
The 10-person GOP primary shows signs of becoming one of the most expensive in Florida this year. Three candidates already put in significant personal contributions— Askar with a $3-million bank loan, Figlesthaler with more than $1 million of his money, and Severson with more than $100,000 in personal loans.
Four candidates — Donalds, Eagle, Fitzenhagen and Henderson — already serve significant portions of voters in the District now. Donalds has twice won in a Naples area state House district, Eagle four times in a Cape Coral race and Fitzenhagen with four elections in Fort Myers. Henderson has held municipal office in Fort Myers for more than a decade.
In total, campaigns reported raising a combined $6.7 million to run in the district; that includes more than $377,000 raised by O’Connell.