Curt Clawson Wins GOP Congressional Primary

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: April 22, 2014 8:30 PM
Curt Clawson

Curt Clawson

Republicans in conservative Southwest Florida hit the polls in Tuesday's primary to find a replacement for former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., and selected businessman Curt Clawson.

Clawson prevailed over Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel and conservative activist Michael Dreikorn. Radel resigned earlier this year after pleading guilty to cocaine possession.

With 96 percent of the votes in, including all early ballots counted, 92 percent of votes cast in Collier County on Election Day and 98 percent of those cast in Lee County -- Clawson led with 38 percent, 26,281 votes; Benacquisto was in second with 26 percent, 17,834 votes; Kreegel stood in third with 25 percent, 17,442 votes; and Dreikorn lagged behind with 11 percent, 7,498 votes.

Spending more than $2 million of his own fortune to blanket the district in television ads, Clawson, a manufacturing executive and former college basketball player at Purdue, billed himself as an outsider, even as he reeled in the support of big-name Republicans like U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., who held the seat before unsuccessfully running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Clawson played up the outsider theme on Tuesday as he declared victory. "I got into this race because I felt we needed more outsiders in Congress," he said. "The career politicians aren't getting the job done."

With more than $6 million spent in the primary, Clawson portrayed his opponents' attacks against him as "wrong," "dishonest" and "personal" during his victory speech. Clawson called for all Republicans in the district to come together and urged the national GOP to embrace more "outsiders" and "constitutional conservatives."

During the campaign, Clawson said he backed Mack’s “Penny Plan,” which calls for reducing the cost of the federal government by 1 percent each year until the budget is balanced. Clawson also touted his business credentials and contrasted his lack of experience in elected office to Benacquisto’s and Kreegel’s terms in office.

Benacquisto also touted some major endorsements including those of former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and members of the region’s legislative delegation in Tallahassee.

Clawson will take on Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood in the special general election on June 24. The district breaks heavily for Republicans and Clawson starts off the general election as a strong favorite.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com,

Comments (6)

8:49AM APR 23RD 2014
OK - Mr. Outsider - you won. Now lets see how you vote!
Anne Starr
8:47AM APR 23RD 2014
PLEASE....can any journalist write a "factual" story w/o inserting their personal beliefs? It was so obvious reading this article that the author has a problem with Clawson. How often did the author mention how much money Clawson had spent? Let us not forget that the LIBS (including Obama) raised and spent MASSIVE amount of money, but that was OK! People cheered that they outspent the Republicans. So why the negative twist if a Republican spends a lot? I'm sick of the yellow journalism that prevails almost every article I read. What about just plain old news reporting? Is it gone forever?
Fran k
8:08AM APR 23RD 2014
Anyone with a conservative label will do well in the next election. I think the voting public is tired (and sick of) the Democratic mantra of tax and grow regulation and hey, lets increase gas prices too because " the higher the gas prices, the less people drive and that's good for the environment" (quote from Harry Reid).
Jeff C.
10:16PM APR 22ND 2014
He spent $3.4 million of his own money. Which means the following, I would rather have the Cocaine Congressman Trey Radel than Clawson. Better character.
9:01AM APR 23RD 2014
Oh pleeeeease! Are you kidding me? What a lame comment. Obama spent far more in his campaign and yet, the public applauded this fact.

Stop with the double standards.
9:33PM APR 22ND 2014
if he played at perdue he played in the chicken league. if he played for purdue he was in the big 10

Leave a Comment on This Story

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.