The race in House District 76 seemed destined for tension from the start.
Republican voters will decide between Sanibel City Councilman Jason Maughan and Bonita Springs boat club executive Adam Botana in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Maughan’s arrest history for shooting a firearm from a car and striking another vehicle was already well known in the region after it came up during his 2016 Senate run. An ad dragging up Botana’s own DUI arrest and other traffic citations felt inevitable as well.
But raising criminal histories couldn’t feel like an escalation in a race where two Republicans already dropped out following fatal car crashes. Peter Cuderman called it quits last May, focusing on military service instead of politics months after a crash on an Interstate-75 on ramp that left a Fort Myers man dead.
Mere months after Cuderman quit, Jesse Purdon also was part of a crash at the same intersection that left a 26-year-old dead. He also wrapped up his state House candidacy, instead running for a lower profile seat on the Bonita Springs City Council.
The series of events largely stopped campaigning for much of last fall, and just as campaigning wound up, again the pandemic impacted the race again. But by late summer, Maughan was busy burnishing his pro-Donald Trump credentials.
Botana bought an electric scooter as he relentlessly knocked on doors throughout the coastal district. At least once, he irritated a homeowners’ association by riding through the back exit of a gated community.
Maughan, who enjoys support from the Evergaldes Trust, has won office before on Sanibel Island. He felt even after a high-profile loss against Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto four years ago, at least his name recognition is significant in the district.
This marks Botana’s first run for office, but he also faces voters with a largely blank slate without the same negative baggage. His family long ran the Baywater Boat Club in the Estero area, so the Botana name holds its own good will in certain quarters.
The winner faces Democrat Anselm Weber in the general election.