Coronavirus aid, a new Republican in the 19th, Figlesthaler unsuspends, journalists unionize–SWFL’s state of play UPDATED

03-26-20 Pelosi enrolls Coronavirus bilHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi signs the Coronavirus support bill today.

March 27, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Updated at 6:12 pm with Trump signature and Republican candidate chart, also at 10:20 pm with Rooney and Steube tweets.

This afternoon the US House of Representatives approved the CARES Act, (HR 748) providing $2 trillion in relief for Americans and businesses hurt by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The measure passed on a near-unanimous voice vote, so the votes of Southwest Floridian representatives were not individually recorded. The measure had bipartisan support in both the Senate, where it passed 96-0, and the House and was endorsed by President Donald Trump. Trump signed it shortly after receiving it, enacting it into law.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) praised Pelosi for the bill’s passage in a tweet: “Thank you
@SpeakerPelosi for moving the CARES Act quickly and safely through the House of Representatives, and for your work on this legislation. As Americans, we must come together to defeat this virus. #Coronavirus.”

However, Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) still found cause for complaint.  “Explain to me how allocating $1 billion of taxpayer money to fund an Obama era program that provides discounted phone service for people will save lives? Pelosi put this in her COVID-19 response bill. She is exploiting this national crisis to push her politics!” he tweeted yesterday.

Nonetheless, Steube managed to eke out praise for Congress and the legislation itself in a pair of tweets once it passed. “This bill will provide assistance for families, small businesses, and health care providers working on the front line to combat the virus. Although not perfect, and there are many pieces of this legislation I do not support, I think it’s important for unemployed workers and small businesses to get economic relief now so that we can quickly get our economy back on track.”

New candidate in the 19th

As though we did not have excitement enough, yet another Republican candidate is aspiring to attain the 19th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Francis Rooney.

This time it’s Michigan businessman Casey Askar. Askar filed on March 20 and sent out a press release stating that he felt called upon to serve the nation.

03-27-20 Casey Askar
Casey Askar

According to his announcement, Asker, a Christian born in Iraq, came to the United States at the age of 7, attended Oakland College, a school in southeastern, Michigan,  joined the US Marine Corps and then graduated from Harvard Business School.

Askar is a very busy entrepreneur. He started the Askar Family Office portfolio, which promotes food brand franchises. He distributes food to Askar Brands restaurants through ASC Foods. He’s involved in commercial real estate through Askar Properties and manages back office operations for franchisees. He’s also a franchisee for brands such as Church’s Chicken and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Askar doesn’t say if he lives in Southwest Florida full time or resides in District 19. His campaign committee’s mailing address is a post office box in Naples. Representatives are required to reside in the state they represent.

“My life is the embodiment of the American Dream,” Askar stated in his campaign announcement. “From fleeing tyrants in Iraq at the age of seven, to enlisting in the US Marines at eighteen, to watching President Donald Trump get elected president, I am so grateful for the life I have been able to build in my great country,”

Like all the Republican candidates in the 19th District, Askar is a passionate Trumper.

“Now, watching President Trump fight the rise of socialism and a world-wide pandemic, I feel called to serve again. America has given so much to me, my family, and my children, it’s time to give back and save our land of opportunity for future generations. Our country’s future is worth fighting for.” His campaign video shows Democratic politicians while it excoriates socialism

Other than his allegiance to Trump, Askar makes no mention of policy positions on any other issue and certainly doesn’t address local or environmental issues on his website, which only asks for donations. He lists no political or government experience.

Askar is the father of six children. He does not give his age in his campaign materials.

Askar’s entry brings the number of Republican congressional candidates to nine and keeps the total number of candidates at 12, with two Democrats and one Independent.

AQUINO, DARREN DIONE 1 REPUBLICAN PARTY AQUINO FOR CONGRESS
ASKAR, CASEY 2 REPUBLICAN PARTY CASEY ASKAR FOR CONGRESS
DONALDS, BYRON 3 REPUBLICAN PARTY BYRON DONALDS FOR CONGRESS
EAGLE, DANE 4 REPUBLICAN PARTY DANE EAGLE FOR CONGRESS
FIGLESTHALER, WILLIAM MATTHEW MD 5 REPUBLICAN PARTY WILLIAM FIGLESTHALER FOR CONGRESS
FITZENHAGEN, HEATHER 6 REPUBLICAN PARTY HEATHER FITZENHAGEN FOR CONGRESS
HENDERSON, RANDY 7 REPUBLICAN PARTY RANDY HENDERSON FOR CONGRESS
MCLAUGHLIN, CHRISTY 8 REPUBLICAN PARTY CHRISTY FOR CONGRESS
SEVERSON, DANIEL MARK 9 REPUBLICAN PARTY SEVERSON FOR CONGRESS
Republicans currently running for the 19th Congressional District seat and their campaign committees.

The number of Republicans running dropped by one when Ford O’Connell ended his campaign on March 19. Another candidate announced suspension of his campaign the same day, but…

The unsuspension of William Figlesthaler

On March 19 Dr. William Figlesthaler solemnly announced the temporary suspension of his congressional campaign and conversion of its phone lines to Coronavirus response hotlines.

“My team has worked tirelessly over the last couple of days to transition our campaign operations into a resource center designed to help the citizens of Southwest Florida navigate the multitude of resources available to help them through this time of uncertainty,” he stated in an announcement at the time.

Normally, temporary suspension of a campaign is code for “it’s over, folks,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. New Figlesthaler campaign ads are appearing on Southwest Florida television channels and there’s no indication of any slowdown in his media platforms.

Commentary: The suspension, such as it was, seems to have lasted a week— perhaps in keeping with President Trump’s view of the severity of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Figlesthaler has issued a video explaining his positions and, of course, his loyalty to President Trump.

03-27-20 Fig video
Dr. Fig battles the late Sen. John McCain.

In the video, against an inset of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), he denounces Democrats, whom he says “want socialized medicine,” then he turns to the other side, saying, “while establishment Republicans have failed to implement President trump’s aggressive free market solutions”—and he shows an inset of Republican Sen. John McCain—who died two years ago.

This is the “establishment Republican” Figlesthaler is running against: a dead American hero.

It will be interesting to see if he can win against live Republicans.

Petition deadline

Both Democratic and Republican candidates have been seeking a delay in Florida’s Monday, March 23rd deadline to turn in ballot petitions to get on the August 18 primary ballot. They argued that with the Coronavirus pandemic, it was impossible to collect petitions or canvass neighborhoods. The alternative to a petition drive is payment of a $10,044 fee.

On Tuesday, March 24, Laurel Lee, Florida’s secretary of state, issued a statement to Florida Politics: “As is always the case, the Florida Department of State will closely assess all conditions that affect the August and November elections, including any ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. We, like you and the rest of the nation, are monitoring the coronavirus pandemic, and we will recommend any appropriate accommodations or decisions as we move closer to the election dates and understand more about the ongoing impact to our state.”

An inquiry to the Division of Elections by The Paradise Progressive received a response that a reply would be forthcoming.

If the state chooses not to waive or postpone the deadline or make some other accommodation for petitions, the congressional field of candidates in the 19th District could be considerably reduced.

Union vote for local journalists postponed

Political elections are not the only ones being affected by the Coronavirus pandemic; union elections are impacted too.

Since local print journalists have endured repeated layoffs and employment insecurity, back in February they decided to unionize.

“We, the journalists of the Naples Daily News, The News-Press, The Banner and the Marco Eagle, are unionizing,” they declared. “We want a seat at the table and a stable work environment where outstanding journalism matters most.”

03-27-20 SWFL News GuildMembers of the SWFL News Guild.       (Image: SWFL News Guild)

The Southwest Florida News Guild, a unit of the Newsguild-Communications Workers of America, was to have held its union election on Wednesday, March 25. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the National Labor Relations Board is putting off all union votes until April.

“Newspapers have reached a critical juncture as financial pressures and corporate mergers have decimated the staff of local newsrooms, including ours. A merger between our parent company, Gannett, and GateHouse Media will continue to gut our newsrooms. Even before the merger, we faced stagnant salaries, increased workloads, rising costs for health insurance, inadequate compensation for mileage and, most critically, the inability to retain many of our most talented peers,” the organizers stated.

“The Southwest Florida News Guild is being born from these conditions. Gannett has made bargaining as individual employees ineffective, which makes bargaining as a unit imperative. Collectively, we can fight for better pay, improved benefits and a diversity in our newsrooms that better reflects the communities we serve.”

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

 

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