Mail ballots are being encouraged for a Republican Primary that will produce a result that is one step closer to having representation in the U.S. Congress for the west coast of Florida from Fort Myers to Marco Island.
State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Curt Clawson, former state representative Paige Kreegel and Michael Dreikorn qualified as Republican candidates for the special election to fill the District 19 congressional seat vacated by Trey Radel for little more than six months. Whoever wins among the four Republican candidates in the GOP primary will face one Democrat and two others in the general election.
The primary election will be April 22, with the general election June 24.
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.
You must be registered to vote by Monday, March 24 to vote in the primary or register Republican in order to vote in the primary.
Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington said she would encourage mail-in ballots because there will be 15 polling locations that won't be available, as other activities are booked there.
"We book those locations well in advance. This short notice doesn't allow them to clear their schedules," Harrington said. "We will make some changes and let the voters know it's possible they will have to go to another location."
Harrington's concern is long lines at the polls, even though she said they have enough scanners to serve every precinct.
Harrington said there would be extra early voting places in Lee County this time around.
Meanwhile, April Freeman, who qualified as a Democrat, has her party's nomination.
"While the Republicans are straightening out their own affairs, I will be listening to Southwest Floridians, their problems, concerns, their hopes, and their ideas," Freeman said in a statement Thursday.
Timothy Rossano qualified as a write-in candidate and Ray Netherwood qualified as a Libertarian Party of Florida candidate.
"Being a Libertarian to me means it's an extra uphill battle," Netherwood said. "I won't accept union or corporate donations, so I need individual donors to step up or groups whose members have joined voluntarily.
"The upside is that Libertarian principles are clearly stated, and my positions should surprise no one.
"Finally, the benefit for voters is that I have no party bosses who expect me to toe any lines or jump through party-dictated hoops."
Candidates either had to get 1,107 signatures or pay a $10,440 qualifying fee if they belong to a party, $6,960 if they are unaffiliated.
Radel resigned from Congress in January, several months after his arrest for cocaine possession in Washington D.C.
For Harrington, this is the first special election with which she has dealt. So far, things are moving smoothly considering the compressed time table.
"We will send out notices to all eligible voters in District 19 (which is all but northernmost Lee County) that it's coming, that there will be a closed primary," Harrington said.