Republicans in CD 19 Go Right as They Look for Votes
Around the State
With two weeks to go in the primary to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., in Congress, the Republican candidates are stressing their conservatism and throwing jabs as the battle enters its final stage.
On Monday, Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, unveiled a new television ad as she continues her bid. Benacquisto takes on businessman Curt Clawson, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel and activist Michael Dreikorn in the April 22 Republican primary.
In the new ad, Benacquisto stresses her conservatism and calls out her opponents and “liberal special interests” for running attack ads against her, but does not go after any of them by name.
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Having campaigned with former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, last week, Benacquisto reeled in the endorsement of another prominent national conservative on Monday. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., announced on that he was backing Benacquisto. Huckabee moved to Florida after his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
“We are in a fight to preserve our shared conservative values and we need proven warriors like Lizbeth Benacquisto to win that battle,” Huckabee insisted. “To all our friends in the 19th Congressional District headed to the polls on April 22nd, I need you to join me in supporting the strongest conservative in the race – Lizbeth Benacquisto,
“You can’t argue with Lizbeth’s proven conservative credentials,” Huckabee added. “She’s a fiscal hawk who's cut taxes, balanced the budget and reduced job-killing regulations in Florida and I know she can cut through the noise and do the same in Washington. Lizbeth’s fought to protect life and end the scourge of abortion, she's been a fierce advocate for Florida’s seniors and veterans, and she has helped lead the fight to crack down on child predators.
“The people of Southwest Florida and across this great nation deserve a conservative leader like Lizbeth Benacquisto in the Congress,” Huckabee concluded.
“Mike Huckabee joins a growing list of national leaders in the conservative movement standing by my side,” Benacquisto insisted on Monday. “Gov. Mike Huckabee is an American patriot who has dedicated his life to advancing the conservative movement in his home state of Arkansas and across this great nation. I am honored to have his support and grateful for his recognition that the hard-working families in Southwest Florida have a proven advocate in me.”
In the meantime, the Clawson camp is ramping up its attacks on Benacquisto. The Clawson team insisted Benacquisto was offering a “campaign of fiction and lies” and noted she had told the press on Thursday that she was able to attend campaign events in the district since “the business of the Senate concluded early today.” David James, a spokesman for Clawson, went on the attack, insisting Benacquisto is a “perennial lawyer” who has run “sleazy” ads.
“It’s not an exaggeration or hyperbole, Sen. Benacquisto is a perennial liar,” James said on Friday afternoon. “First, the Fort Myers News Press and NBC 2 debunked the lies in her sleazy campaign spots against Curt Clawson. Then she lied to miss yet another candidate forum, citing the taxpayers’ business in Tallahassee, in order to attend a campaign fundraiser. Then she lied at the subsequent fundraiser that her business in Tallahassee had ‘concluded,’ when indeed it hadn’t and she missed the vote on the state budget.
“If the senator has bitten off more than she can chew, lying about it is not the answer; resigning her seat may be the right choice,” James added. “In her case, Sen. Benacquisto should decide to be a candidate or a public servant, because she clearly cannot handle both and she cannot handle telling the truth.”
In the meantime, Clawson is trying to get his own conservative credentials in order. At the end of last week after the NRA and the United Sportsmen of Florida gave Benacquisto high marks for her record on guns. Clawson insisted he was a “strong supporter of the Second Amendment” and was pro-life.
“I am strongly pro-life,” Clawson maintained. “I learned my pro-life values from my mother, who volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center.”
But Kreegel has also focused on the issues in recent days with his campaign trumpeting his opposition to gun control over the weekend.
“Paige Kreegel is the pro-Second Amendment candidate in the race for Congress,” the Kreegel campaign insisted on Saturday. “Dr. Kreegel will fight tirelessly to defend our Second Amendment rights from the Obama administration.”
Kreegel also attempted to showcase his pro-life credentials on Monday.
“I believe that safeguarding the sanctity of life should be a top priority for all Americans. In the state Legislature, I fought to protect the rights of the unborn – as I believe that life begins at the point of conception,” Kreegel stated on Monday.
Dreikorn also looked to highlight his conservatism on Monday, noting his admiration for “The Conscience of a Conservative” by former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., who launched the modern conservative movement with his presidential bid back in 1964.
“I read this book over 20 years ago," Dreikorn informed supporters on Monday. “It defines my principles as a conservative.”
Dreikorn also took aim at the Obama administration, insisting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel needed more than a brigade on standby to respond to the Russian actions in the Crimea against the Ukraine.
Whoever emerges in the primary will be a heavy favorite over Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood in the June 24 election.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.