Curt Clawson Wins Republican Primary Race
Curt Clawson, a businessman who was little known months ago in Southwest Florida, won a challenging GOP primary Tuesday to fill the U.S. House seat left open by the scandalous collapse of Trey Radel.
Clawson pitched himself as an outsider against more established candidates. He poured more than $2 million into television ads. In one, the former Purdue basketball player challenged President Barack Obama to a three-point contest.
The SWFL residents in District 19 took about 38 percent of the vote in the Congressional race, besting several rivals, including state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, whose swift rise to prominence in Tallahassee made her an establishment favorite. Benacquisto was fighting for second place with former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.
“I got into this race because I felt like we needed more outsiders in Congress,” Clawson said in a tweet. “The career politicians aren’t getting the job done.”
Clawson has to run in a general special election set for June 24 but enters as the favorite against Democrat April Freeman; the district is solidly Republican.
More than $6 million was spent on the primary, with Clawson leading the way. Several super PACs also got involved, helping add to the adverse tone, and raising questions about close ties to candidates.
Clawson outlasted scrutiny of his record as an automotive industry executive and a TV report about a sex offender that lived in one of Clawson’s homes, sold just before he entered the race.
As Clawson climbed in the polls, he drew support from former Rep. Connie Mack, who held the seat before Radel, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. The Tea Party Express gave him another boost. The group on Monday was feeling bullish about Clawson’s chances, campaign staff proclaiming the race was the “first tea party vs. establishment showdown” of 2014.