Republicans Maneuver and Go on the Attack in CD 19

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: April 2, 2014 3:55 AM
Lizbeth Benacquisto, Paige Kreegel, Curt Clawson

Lizbeth Benacquisto, Paige Kreegel, Curt Clawson

With three weeks to go until the primary, Republican candidates running in the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., are turning up the heat and expanding their outreach efforts. 

The team of Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, went after primary rival businessman Curt Clawson on Monday night, insisting he can’t be trusted.

“A recent newspaper investigation by the Naples Daily News has revealed that the true business background of Curt Clawson is cause for concern,” the Benacquisto team insisted. “Under the leadership of Curt Clawson, Hayes Lemmerz, a Michigan-based wheel-making company was cited for several safety problems including one in which a worker was fatally injured during an explosion.

“Curt Clawson’s leadership not only endangered the lives of his workers, it cost over 1,300 workers their jobs,” the Benacquisto team added. “As the company declined toward eventual bankruptcy, Clawson continued to pay himself seven-figure annual bonuses. He’s now using his ill-gotten gains from his time as CEO of Hayes Lemmerz to flood the airwaves with ads highlighting his strong business acumen and cover up his disastrous record.”

The Benacquisto campaign also launched a website attacking Clawson.  

In the meantime, Clawson signed a pledge from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) not to raise taxes. Benacquisto and  Kreegel signed the ATR pledge earlier in the campaign.

"I wanted to closely study the issue because I was concerned with what impact it would have on my ability to reduce tax exemptions and subsidies,” Clawson said. “For example, if we wanted to reduce subsidies and lower overall tax rates, would the subsidy reduction be considered a tax increase?  Before taking any sort of pledge, it is important to consider all aspects of it.

"After careful review, I spoke to Grover Norquist personally and today I am signing the ATR pledge,” Clawson added. “I think it is very prudent to take the time to study something prior to announcing a decision."

Clawson also threw a jab at his rivals.

"I find it odd that the career politicians, who had previously voted for tax increases, were claiming to have signed this tax pledge,” Clawson said. "It seems more than a bit disingenuous and, unfortunately, typical of career politicians who will say and do anything to win an election.”

With three weeks to go, the candidates are starting to expand their outreach efforts, running commercials, focusing on issues and unveiling endorsements.

Earlier this week, Clawson took a page from Gov. Rick Scott’s playbook with an ad featuring his mother.

“Right now, none of my opponents have any positive ads on the air. None. It's too bad they have nothing positive to say about themselves,” Clawson informed supporters. “If they aren’t going to listen to me, maybe they will listen to my mother! These career politicians who only run negative ads, and don’t have anything positive to say about themselves, need to learn some of my mamma’s lessons.”

Kreegel launched a new television commercial on Tuesday featuring his wife Erika talking about his background.

“My husband Paige is running for Congress,” Erika Kreegel says in the ad. “Campaigns have become so nasty. People should stand on their record. Paige has been a doctor in Southwest Florida for 30 years, on the sheriff's SWAT team, and as a trauma doctor saving the lives of our servicemen.

“As a legislator he fought to protect life, and Second Amendment rights. Paige's is a life of service to patients, community, and family,” she adds. “For 25 years Paige has never let me down. You can trust him with your vote and our children's future.”

Benacquisto looked to highlight her record in Tallahassee on Monday night, noting that Scott signed into law a bill she co-sponsored giving veterans in-state tuition for state colleges and universities.

“While Washington has failed to fulfill the promises to our veterans, I have always and will continue to fight for our veterans -- because they earned it,” Benacquisto informed supporters. “The Florida GI Bill provides for an additional $22 million in support to our military community through education, technical training, base buffering, and modernizing the state’s armories. It also establishes the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program which will waive out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans enrolled in Florida colleges, universities, and career centers.”

In the meantime, dark-horse Republican hopeful Michael Dreikorn won the support of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) at the end of last week.

"The current immigration reform legislation being supported by Obama, most Democrats, and some Republicans would permanently undermine U.S. laws and elections while attracting tens of millions more illegal immigrants into our nation," said William Gheen, the president of ALIPAC. "We are supporting Michael Dreikorn because he understands that Congress needs to focus on getting our existing laws enforced instead of changing those laws to accommodate illegals and those who employ them."

The candidates clash in the April 22 primary. Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Rey Netherwood will take on whichever Republican wins the primary in the June 24 general election.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

Comments (1)

8:31AM APR 2ND 2014
If it took Clawson weeks to figure out what a tax is and what would be considered a tax increase then I am thinking he has no business as our Congressman. Besides if you study the pledge you will know it is not no new tax or a tax increase with out proportiate cuts. Clawson fails on this one.

Had to watch the Clawson ad several times before I could understand how someone with thousands of dollars of china and and expensive furniture could relate to me in my Rooms To Go furnished home. Then it hit me, he can't.

As for negative ads, is Clawson serious? His campaign has lied about Kreegel, lied about Benacquisto to the extent that you know the ads are nothing more than lies backed by the narrowest sliver of truth. So don't cry about the negitive ads Clawson, you are guilty too.

One thing I am certain. Paige Kreegel and Lizbeth Benacquisto never turned their backs on a dead man's family in their time of need. Curt Clawson did and those are the words of someone who knows the real Curt Clawson.

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