The ballot for the upcoming special general election and related primary for the congressional seat vacated by former House Rep Trey Radel was finalized last Wednesday.
Republicans residing in Congressional District 19, which encompasses much of Lee County and parts of Collier, will have their choice among four candidates. State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto; businessman and former basketball star Curt Clawson; aviation, space and defense industry expert Michael Dreikorn and former state representative and physician Paige Kreegel will face off in a closed primary to be held April 22.
It's a solid slate in terms of experience and expertise.
That's gratifying as good representation at the federal level is imperative given the local issues on the national table: flood insurance premium problems, water quality discharge woes and on-going health care reform as the Affordable Care Act makes its way into implementation.
It is unfortunate - most unfortunate - that our district is a congressman short as those issues are addressed this session.
The Republican candidate who wins the party nomination will advance to the special general election scheduled for June 24.
Businesswoman and community activist April Freeman has qualified as a Democrat; retired Air Force officer and healthcare executive Ray Netherwood qualified as a Libertarian Party of Florida candidate and Timothy Rossano qualified a write-in candidate.
The general election is, of course, open to all registered voters in District 19, which includes the communities of Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, Pine Island, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva, Bonita Springs, Estero, Boca Grande, Naples and Marco Island.
A couple of things for the weeks ahead:
One, yes, this is going to be a single-race election. But as we stated earlier, it's a key seat. That is a primary reason the state is going to cough up an estimated $1.5 million of OUR money for a special election for a seat that's up at the end of this year.
It's up to us if we, the taxpayers, get value for that buck by actually casting a ballot.
Two, if the last election for District 19 taught us anything, it's that it is imperative for all of us to be informed as to who the candidates are and what they stand for- and that means more than listening to sound bites.
We urge voters to start now. Make plans to attend forums and debates.
Have some hard questions ready.
Early voting for the primary will be April 12-19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in 11 locations in Lee and Collier counties.
Early voting for the special election will run from June 14-21.
We thank all of the candidates for their interest and, in advance, for their efforts.
Hopefully, it's going to be a busy few months for all of us.