Dr. William Figlesthaler delivers his own State of the Union address in a campaign video. (Image: Dr. Fig for Congress campaign)
Feb. 6, 2020 by David Silverberg
Final 4th Quarter 2019 financial figures are out for the political campaigns in Southwest Florida’s 19th Congressional District, so it’s time to survey the standing of all 11 candidates.
But it’s not enough just to recount what candidates have reported to the Federal Election Commission. In a series of articles called “Follow the money,” The Paradise Progressive will analyze what the numbers mean for each campaign, what they tell us about each candidate’s popular support and how each candidate is positioned for the days ahead.
Because it’s such a crowded field these articles will appear singly as individual profiles.
We’ll look at candidates in the order of the amount of money they raised in 2019.
Republican Dr. William Figlesthaler is the top-funded candidate in the race for the House of Representatives in the 19th Congressional District.
This Naples-based urologist and first-time politician has the highest total of all candidates reporting their 2019 finances, with $536,295 in receipts.
However, of that amount the vast majority, $410,000, came in a loan to the campaign from the candidate. Otherwise, 37 other donors contributed to the campaign for both the primary and general elections in amounts starting at $3,000.
Virtually all donors are active or retired doctors or associated with the medical field. Additional donors are family members: his Russian-born wife Olga and relatives Karolina, Elizabeth and William Figlesthaler II. Figlesthaler also received $2,000 from the campaign committee of Rep. Greg Murphy (R-3-NC), a member of Congress and fellow urologist from North Carolina, where Figlesthaler did his residence.
Figlesthaler spent $29,541.35 in 2019. Most of that was spent on consultants for media and fundraising, a video and website development. However, he also came up with a unique and bizarre form of advertising: screens in the men’s urinals in Hertz Arena.
As men urinate on the red, white and blue-colored plastic screen at the bottom of the urinal, they can ask themselves the question printed on the screen: “Are you ready to drain the swamp?” and presumably somehow connect the Dr. Fig name on the screen to Figlesthaler.
The stunt certainly got Figlesthaler local TV air time and media coverage.
“Quite frankly, they’re pissed off,” Figlesthaler said of voters to NBC-2’s Dave Elias, who reported the urinal story on Jan. 20. “They’re tired of what’s going on in Washington.” And was this a good idea? “The mere fact we’re talking about it right now tells me it was probably a good idea,” he concluded.
Whether it changes anyone’s mind and convinces voters remains to be seen. It’s not clear whether there’s any equivalent promotion for the women’s lavatories, so essentially Figlesthaler ignored half the voting population.
Politically, Figlesthaler is a straight out Trumper and undeviatingly follows the Trumpist line on all issues. He’s working off the 2016 angry voter meme and making the old “drain the swamp” slogan the centerpiece of his campaign—one now abandoned even by Trump. He’s anti-abortion. He plays up his lack of political experience or knowledge. The only local issue he addresses on his website is water purity—he’s all for it.
It appears that he was inspired or convinced by his fellow urologist Greg Murphy in North Carolina that with enough money a candidate with virtually no name recognition, legislative record or political experience could win a seat in Congress.
Given the amount of personal money he’s putting into his campaign and his array of media and political consultants Figlesthaler is running what should look to an outsider like a fairly professional campaign. Consultants include Anedot, Baton Rouge, La., for fundraising; Compliance Consulting, a global compliance firm; Landslyde Media Group, a single-person, Cape Coral-based consultancy; Southeastern Strategies, a marketing firm; and Lakeside Media, a video production company.
That said, there’s no indication that Figlesthaler has any field organization, volunteers or infrastructure or is making any effort in that direction.
Figlesthaler seems to have no knowledge or interest in local issues and he certainly has no established political base beyond his small circle of doctor friends and their spouses, who actually reside all over the state rather than in the District.
Given his medical background and medical-heavy donor base he could clearly weigh in on healthcare and medical issues. However, his website states only: “As a physician, I have served thousands of Southwest Florida patients. I have seen firsthand how government-controlled healthcare drives up costs and destroys patients’ quality of care. I will fight for a free market system that ensures competitive prices and quality of service.” In other words, he opposes the Affordable Care Act.
Figlesthaler’s is a shallow, highly ideological campaign focused on national themes and complete indifference to local issues. Also, his small donor list doesn’t indicate an enormous groundswell of grassroots support.
By most traditional measures, Figlesthaler would not be considered a serious candidate and this would simply be a vanity project. However, his initial personal investment and the resources at his command mean that he must be considered a contender. In this he is following the model of his idol, Donald Trump.
Such campaigns have succeeded in the 19th Congressional District before. However, if he wins, Figlesthaler seems set to join the parade of inexperienced, naïve Southwest Florida candidates who went to Washington and were disillusioned by the rigors and realities of legislating, ill-serving the interests of Southwest Florida.
Next: Dane Eagle
Liberty lives in light
©2020 by David Silverberg