Republicans Maneuver in CD 19 Open Seat Battle

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: February 14, 2014 3:55 AM
Lizbeth Benacquisto, Paige Kreegel, Curt Clawson

Lizbeth Benacquisto, Paige Kreegel, Curt Clawson

This week, Republicans looking to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., in Congress positioned themselves as they get ready for a crowded primary. After pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession in November, Radel resigned from Congress at the end of January, leaving a coveted seat in Congress up for grabs.

On Thursday, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel, who has filed for the job, stressed his opposition to raising the federal debt ceiling. Earlier this week, despite most members of his caucus opposing him, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, rounded up enough Republicans and all but two Democrats to support raising the federal debt ceiling.

"I do not support any measure to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without cutting spending,” Kreegel said. “While I don't support our nation defaulting on its loans, raising the debt ceiling without instilling serious spending cuts is simply kicking the can down the road.

"When I am in Congress, I will work to reduce the deficit by cutting taxes, lowering spending, reducing the size and scope of government and enacting pro-growth policies,” Kreegel added. “Without real conservative leadership in Washington, this unsustainable financial path will become the new norm, and that is simply unacceptable to me. The federal deficit must be reduced – this should not be a partisan issue.”

Kreegel entered the race before Radel resigned. This marks Kreegel’s second congressional bid. He placed third in the Republican primary back in 2012, behind Radel and Chauncey Goss who is staying out of the contest this time out.

Also this week, Florida Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter, R-Naples, endorsed Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, for the Republican nomination.

“I have had the distinct privilege to serve this community with Lizbeth Benacquisto,” Richter said on Tuesday. “Lizbeth is tremendously passionate about standing up for the conservative values we all hold dear. Lizbeth is someone I know and I can trust to be effective, she has earned my respect. I am proud to support her, and know Lizbeth Benacquisto will represent Collier County and all of Southwest Florida in Congress with the dignity and respect we deserve.”

“I am proud to have the support of Sen. Richter. He has proven to Collier and Lee counties that the conservative values we share are getting Florida back on track,” said Benacquisto on the endorsement. “Sen. Richter joins a long list of community leaders who have humbled me with their trust and confidence.”

In the meantime, businessman Curtis Clawson tried to stress he is the outsider of the race in his second commercial. The new TV ad focuses on Clawson’s background in the private sector where he eventually rose to becoming CEO of Hayes-Lemmerz International Inc.

Other candidates running in the Republican primary, which will be held on April 22, include aviation consultant Michael Dreikorn, businessman and veteran Mike Giallombardo, businessman and veteran Brian Gibens and businessman Timothy Rossano. Whoever wins the Republican nomination can expect to take on community activist April Freeman, who is running as a Democrat, and Libertarian Ray Netherwood, an Air Force veteran who ran for Congress back in 2010.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

Comments (2)

9:23AM FEB 14TH 2014
I wonder if Senator Garrett Richter supports the strong arm tactis being used in this race by the candidate's husband. Of course I would expect nothing less from a former campaign finance bundler for Hillary Clinton's failed presidental campaign. I think it is fair to ask if he will do the same in 2016?
9:51AM FEB 14TH 2014
Lizbeth represents crony capitalism not the people. Just look into her voting record. Find a real conservative.

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