From left: State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel, Curt Clawson and Michael Dreikorn
Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Republicans running in the 19th Congressional District special
election could find it harder to get organized tea party support than
Trey Radel did in 2012.
"I think that the
tea party will have an impact, but it won't necessarily be the impact it
had in the primary election two years ago," said FGCU political science
professor Peter Bergerson. "And I think voters are going to look at it
2012, the Lee County Patriots endorsed Radel, then a conservative radio
talk show host, in the primary and straight into the office.
similar support likely won't be forthcoming for any of the five
Republican candidates - big-name or grass-roots - who've announced
intentions to run in the special election for the seat vacated by Radel.
His January resignation came several months after his arrest and guilty
plea for cocaine possession.
The special election is April 22, followed by the general election June 24. The deadline to qualify is Feb. 26.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel and political
newcomers Curt Clawson, Michael Dreikorn and Gerald Gallagher have
announced their candidacies.
Early in Radel's campaign, tea party-associated group Lee County Patriots had already expressed its support for him.
"I can't think of anybody in our group who wasn't behind Trey," Chairwoman Kathy Jones said.
two years later, the group meets socially and relies on newsletters to
communicate. And it's unlikely that same support will be behind any one
"I have a feeling the votes will be more spread around this time," Jones said.
Naples Tea Party didn't wholly support Radel in 2012, and it probably
won't for a candidate this time around, former leader Lavigne
The group has "pretty much dissolved itself," he said, though the Naples area still has other active groups.
people who identify as tea partiers differ in their opinions of whether
political experience or inexperience is the better trait.
some members believe a political newcomer - like Radel was - will be
better for the seat, others think the track records of Kreegel and
Benacquiosto will help inform their voting.
"My personal preference would be someone who is not a politician, but of course it's tough once you get to D.C.," Jones agreed.
And in the same way local tea party groups are different than in 2012, so, too, are candidates' plans to connect with them.
"The candidates will be courting the tea party but it won't be so open, won't be so obvious," Bergerson said.
candidates reached by The News-Press said while tea party is one
important part of their campaign and one they share values with, they
aren't the only part.
here are primarily like-minded in their conservative values," said
Dreikorn. But he added that though he isn't a member of the tea party,
he supports the organization.
issued a written statement that her campaign "welcomes the support and
assistance of all conservatives who want to fix Washington and take on
the status quo," while Kreegel's campaign wrote he "needs the support of
all conservatives" and "won't be exclusively campaigning to them."
too, who has styled himself as the "outsider candidate," believes his
views "will resonate with all sorts of conservatives," Communications
Director Matt Hurley said. Clawson will spell out that message to at
least one tea party group, though - he is to speak Friday with the Lee
County Patriots on Pine Island.
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