Tonight the candidates vying for Florida's U.S. House District 19 will meet for a candidate forum on Marco Island sponsored by the Southwest Florida Citizens' Alliance (SFCA), the Libertarian Party of Collier County (LP Collier), Resistance Radio, Oath Keepers and Our America Initiative amongst others. The Republican primary between the four candidates will occur on April 22, 2014 and the winner will face Libertarian Ray Netherwood and Democrat April Freeman in the June 24, 2014 special election. the special election is necessary as the position was opened up when Republican Trey Radel resigned in disgrace after an arrest for cocaine possession.
The four Republican candidates at tonight's forum will be Lizbeth Benacquisto, Curt Clawson, Michael Dreikorn and Paige Kreegel. Tonight's forum is the first of a series of five such forums the SFCA and the other sponsors are promoting. While Benacquisto and Kreegel tout their conservative credentials which are full of holes, it would seem Clawson and Dreikorn are the true conservatives in the primary race. It will be interesting to see how the four present themselves and answer questions from the public at the upcoming five forums.
More interesting will be how the winner of the April 22, 2014 Republican primary fairs when that person faces a Libertarian and a Democrat in the special election in late June. Libertarian Netherwood seems more in tune with district 19 voters when it comes to the issues and Democrat Freeman deserves a certain amount of respect running in such a strongly conservative district. District 19 is fairly new as prior to redistricting, it was on the East Coast of Florida and strongly Democrat. Although Benacquisto is the favorite due to her name recognition, should she win the Republican primary, it could benefit Netherwood in the polls. Netherwood offers a responsible bridge on the issues for the voters between the Republican and the Democrat while firmly holding onto the conservative values of the district.
Tonight's event will be held at the Marco Island Historical Museum located at 180 S Heathwood Drive on Marco Island and will be moderated by Dave Elliott of the Dave Elliott radio show. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the forum is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Rose Hall.