The SWFL legal landscape: Askar vs. Donalds to go to a jury; Oakes seeks facetime with DeSantis–UPDATED

Sept. 21, 2021 by David Silverberg

UPDATED Sept. 22, 2021 with new information about campaign contribution offer.

Southwest Florida’s lawyers have been busy on the political front this month.

In the case of Casey Askar versus Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), there having been no resolution of the case, a jury trial is scheduled for 9:00 am, next May 18.

To recap: This is a case of defamation and libel. Casey Askar was a Republican primary candidate for Congress last year, running against Donalds, who ultimately won the race.

On primary election day, Aug. 18, a text message was sent to Republicans, allegedly from Donalds, saying that he had dropped out of the race. Donalds vehemently denied its authenticity and accused Askar of sending the false message.

However, Donalds provided no evidence and Askar denied the charge. On Nov. 16, 2020, Askar sued Donalds for defamation and libel, demanding $30,000 in damages.

Since then, the two parties’ lawyers have been wrangling, fighting over the legitimacy of the case, the timing, whether to sit for in-person depositions and the like. Askar is represented by Michael Lawhon of Naples, Donalds by Alan Perlman of Fort Lauderdale.

The next action is scheduled for this Thursday, Sept. 23, when Judge Elizabeth Krier of the 20th Judicial Circuit is scheduled to hear motions to compel Donalds to answer questions and for Askar to file an additional complaint.

While many lawsuits are settled well before they come to trial—sometimes right on the courthouse steps—this one may be different. Whoever sent the original text message committed a federal crime. Askar’s lawsuit is at least partially defensive, since if he wins before a jury he would conclusively prove his innocence.

Unless the case is resolved before its assigned date, Southwest Florida will be treated to a Collier County jury trial in the Spring, just as Donalds’ 2022 re-election campaign ramps up.

It should provide quite the Springtime spectacle.

Oakes, Boatman and DeSantis

Ever since the 2020 presidential election and Donald Trump’s Big Lie that he won in a landslide and it was stolen from him, Trumpers of varying credibility have been insisting that they have the evidence confirming Trump’s delusions.

The most prominent of these folks outside the immediate Trump orbit has been MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell. He has famously insisted he has compelling proof of the fraud that robbed Trump of another term.

To date, despite much hoopla, Lindell has made no case, sliding down the credibility scale into the laughable range and becoming a late-night punch line.

But in Southwest Florida Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III has stubbornly promoted Trump’s alleged victory since the very day Trump lost. Of course, in January he sponsored two buses of demonstrators to the “Stop the Steal” rally and participated himself.

Now comes Oakes in the form of a Sept. 16 letter by him and James Boatman, managing shareholder of the Naples law firm Boatman Ricci, to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

“I am writing today to strongly encourage you to meet with Alfie Oakes and the forensic data experts he wants to bring with him to discuss the verifiable evidence of election fraud that occurred in Florida during the 2020 Election,” Boatman states in the letter, which was released on Sept. 16. “The data doesn’t lie.”

Remember that this was an election of which DeSantis himself said: “The way Florida did it, I think inspires confidence, I think that’s how elections should be run. We’re one of the few states in the country where you can follow the number of people that are voting in real-time. The rest of these states, it’s kind of like a black hole.”

Clearly, Oakes and Boatman don’t agree. “If we do not draw a line on the battlefield on this issue, the Republic will be unrecoverable, as it is nearly lost already,” warns the letter.

Oakes and Boatman want two hours of face time with the governor. In its later paragraphs, the letter starts pleading: “Just show up with an open-mind. What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Possibly, they write, DeSantis would hear nothing compelling. At best, he’d learn something new “which allows you to take action that could change the course of history for this Country and, in fact, for the World.”

In addition to his opportunity to change history, Oakes sweetened the pot for DeSantis by pledging a $100,000 donation to the governor’s re-election campaign if he would meet, according to Jacob Ogles, reporting in Florida Politics. He made the offer during an appearance on Alex Jones’ notoriously extreme Internet program, InfoWars.


The letter concludes: “We are on the edge of an abyss, if not neck deep in one already”—a badly crafted metaphor given that when you’re neck-deep in an abyss you’re no longer on the edge.

Two hours of face time with a governor is a very long time for a very busy man and the discussion may not stay on topic. DeSantis already did a great boon to Oakes last September when he canceled all COVID mandate-violation fines throughout the state. Now Oakes is facing federal pressure to protect his workforce from a virus whose reality he doesn’t admit in order to keep his considerable federal income; perhaps the discussion would also veer into that.

Also unmentioned in the letter is whether this discussion would have to take place in public under Florida’s Sunshine Law.

There are no publicly available indications at this point that DeSantis or his office has received the letter, acknowledged it or responded.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

SWFL Roundup: Texas mess reactions; reps rated in new democracy index

Collier County, Fla., residents demonstrate for women’s choice on May 21, 2019. (Photo: Author)

Sept. 6, 2021 by David Silvererg

Last week Southwest Florida’s congressmen were very vocal in condemning President Joe Biden and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. But they fell strangely silent on the issue of women’s choice when the Supreme Court let stand a Texas law effectively outlawing abortion.

Of the area’s three members of Congress, only Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), whose district covers Punta Gorda north to Venice, commented on the issue and did so indirectly.

When the chief executive officer of Whole Women’s Health, which bills itself as “a privately-owned, feminist healthcare management company” based in Austin, Texas, tweeted on Aug. 31 that the clinic would continue providing abortions right up until the moment the law went into effect, Steube responded on Twitter with a Biblical quotation from the prophet Jeremiah (1:5): “What about the child, who is living in the womb that is about to be murdered, is that not a loved one?”

(Editor’s note: Steube’s citation is not at all what the Old Testament passage states. In it the prophet Jeremiah says that God chose him to be a prophet before his birth. As stated in the King James version: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”)

Steube has consistently voted to restrict women’s choice from the time he began serving the Florida House of Representatives in 2011. During his time in Congress starting in 2019, he received a zero rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a pro-choice lobbying group, based on six key votes.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), who represents the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island, has always advertised himself as “A Trump supporting, liberty loving, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment black man,” so his position on choice is known. There were no key votes on choice-related bills since he took office on Jan. 3 of this year, so he remains unrated by Planned Parenthood Action Fund. As of this writing he had not commented on the Texas law on any platform.

By contrast, Cindy Banyai, his Democratic challenger, issued a lengthy statement.

“Many of us are still reeling from the attacks on one of our most basic civil rights—the right to decide if we are going to be a parent,” she stated. “For decades, Republicans and their far-right extremist allies have attacked women and tried everything they can to keep us from being able to control what happens to our lives and bodies.”

She continued: “My America does not impose forced birth on women and then attack them when they struggle to provide for their families. This isn’t about doing anything other than imposing the choice of fundamentalists on women, fundamentalists who don’t care about the consequences to the mother or the child. We are better than this, and now we must rise to the moment.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district goes from eastern Collier County to Hialeah in the east, has been in the House of Representatives since 2003. He has a 3 percent rating from Planned Parenthood Action Fund based on 31 votes. He too had not commented on the Texas law as of this writing.

His challenger, Democrat Adam Gentle, however, had a strong reaction.

“I am sick and tired of women’s health being a political, judicial football,” he told The Paradise Progressive.  “Healthcare isn’t a sport.  We must codify a woman’s right to choose into our federal law.  We can and we must.”

So far there have been no publicly-available polls of attitudes toward abortion in Southwest Florida. But according to reporting on the website FiveThirtyEight, the US public largely opposes overturning the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, ensuring a woman’s right to choose.

In the article “Why Texas’s Abortion Law May Go Too Far For Most Americans,” senior writer Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux writes that “For decades, Americans have broadly opposed overturning Roe v. Wade — despite escalating attempts by anti-abortion advocates to turn public opinion against legal abortion.”  

Americans have consistently supported upholding Roe v. Wade. (Chart: FiveThirtyEight)

Certainly, when the Georgia legislature passed a Texas-like bill in 2019 it galvanized pro-choice forces there and contributed to that state’s turn toward the Democratic Party in the 2020 election.

“The heartbeat bill was the thing that made them jump” into the Democratic Party column, according to Georgian resident Jen Jordan. (The law was ruled unconstitutional in 2020 and never took effect.)

The same could occur in Florida and nationally as the assault on women’s choice proceeds. “For better or worse, Americans’ views on when abortion should be legal will probably get a lot clearer,” writes Thomson-DeVeaux.

It will also be harder and harder for Southwest Florida representatives to maintain their silence.

New democracy index

FiveThirtyEight has also produced a new metric measuring the degree to which representatives and senators support democracy based on their congressional votes. Users can look up the actions of any member of Congress.

The tool is unveiled in the article “Which Senators and Representatives Vote in Favor of Democracy?

The article by Laura Bronner looks at two 2021 measures of commitment to democracy: a “bare bones” metric based on six votes “limited to basic requirements like free and, in theory, fair elections and other measures that help safeguard democracy.” A more expansive metric is based on 18 votes and “everything in the first category, but also includes bills that expand civil liberties and who has political power.” This is not based on party affiliation or support for Biden but on those specific votes.

Readers can look up their representatives and senators and see where they fall on the democratic spectrum.

It may not be a surprise, but all three of Southwest Florida’s representatives clock in at 0 percent for bare-bones support for democracy.

The more expansive definition yields different results, however. Diaz-Balart has a 31.6 percent rating while Donalds and Steube both voted for democratic measures only 5.3 percent of the time.

Not mentioned in the FiveThirtyEight article is that Donalds has been prominent and vocal in supporting Florida’s legislative efforts to restrict voting access and praised Georgia’s passage of its voter suppression law.

Florida’s two Republican senators yield very different results. Sen. Marco Rubio voted 50 percent of the time in favor of the six key bare-bones democratic measures and 42.9 percent in favor of the 18 more expansive measures. Sen. Rick Scott voted for 25 percent of the bare-bones measures and 28.6 percent in favor of the more expansive proposals.

A happy and restful Labor Day to all.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Banyai formally launches campaign, Donalds rejects infrastucture improvement: the SWFL state of play today

July 2, 2021 by David Silverberg

As Hurricane Elsa churns her way across the Atlantic Ocean, storms of a different kind are brewing in Southwest Florida.

Cindy Banyai (Photo: Banyai for Congress Campaign)

Even though the 2022 election is a year and a half away the wind is picking up as Cindy Banyai, last year’s Democratic candidate for the 19th Congressional District, formally launches her campaign against Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.).

Banyai is launching the campaign over the first 12 days of July with a variety of events.

Upcoming events to date are:

First endorsement

On June 21st Banyai announced the first endorsement of the campaign when she was endorsed by No Dem Left Behind, a Democratic organization that says it “has learned from experience that the most conservative districts in the country have Democratic candidates popular enough to beat a Republican opponent.”

The No Dem Left Behind logo.

The organization stated it was endorsing Banyai because she “is ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work, to be the voice in Washington D.C. for the people of her community.”

“This latest endorsement is a big step towards helping us change the narrative in Florida,” stated Banyai.

Donalds marks six months in office

July 3rd marks six months that Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) has been in office.

In his most recent vote, Donalds voted against the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act (House Resolution (HR) 3684), which provides $550 billion for infrastructure and transportation improvements.

The bill passed the House yesterday, July 1, by a vote of 221 to 201.

In addition to Donalds, Southwest Florida’s other representatives, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against the bill.

Surfside collapse

In addition to voting against improving America’s infrastructure, Donalds took the time to attack Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for daring to suggest that climate change might have had a role in the collapse of part of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.

“I was appalled by [Jennifer Granholm’s] recent comments blaming sea level rise & climate change for the tragedy that has struck Surfside, FL. Stop using this disaster to fuel your political agenda,” he tweeted.

What was the terrible thing Granholm said?

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm

“We know that the seas are rising,” she said in an interview on CNN. “We know that we’re losing inches and inches of beach, it’s not just in Florida but all around. This is a phenomena that will continue. We’ll have to wait and see what the analysis is for this building but the issue about resiliency and making sure we adapt to this changing climate, that’s going to mean levees are going to have to be built, that means that sea walls need to be built, infrastructure needs to be built.”

Donalds was not unique in his ostentatious outrage over these comments. Conservative media are piling on—this in the wake of the condo collapse, the unprecedented heat dome over much of the country and the approach of Hurricane Elsa in the Atlantic.

It’s worth noting that while Donalds sent “thoughts and prayers” to the victims in Surfside, he voted against improving American infrastructure for the future.

Unfilled numbers

On June 24th, Donalds and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced the Unnecessary Agency Regulations Reduction Act (HR 4132) “to consolidate or repeal unnecessary agency major rules, and for other purposes.”

However, in what has been a pattern, Donalds did not submit any text for the bill, just a name and number.

This means that the real work of legislation has not been done and there is no content, no thought and no substance to it. Nonetheless, Donalds was able to boast of a name and number in a press release.

A happy July 4th to all.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

The Donalds Dossier and DC Roundup: Donalds discovers his district; Steube denies gold to the blue

A sign at the entrance to Delnor-Wiggins State Park warns of red tide during the Big Bloom of 2018. (Photo: Author)

March 22, 2021 by David Silverberg

Updated March 24 with new Stafford Act link

Last week Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) took a break from his verbal attacks on President Joe Biden, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Democrats to actually pay attention to his district.

The attention came in the form of his first legislative proposal, a re-tread of a bill introduced in the previous Congress by his predecessor Francis Rooney, to ensure that the government keeps monitoring harmful algal blooms (HABs) even in the event of a government shutdown.

Donalds’ Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act of 2021 (House Resolution (HR) 1954) would, according to its official language, “amend the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 to clarify that during a lapse in appropriations certain services relating to the Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecasting System are excepted services under the Anti-Deficiency Act.”

The need for the legislation became apparent during former President Donald Trump’s 35-day shutdown of the government from Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019 in a battle with Congress over funding his border wall. Following 2018’s severe red tide off the Florida Gulf coast, Rooney tried to build a coordinated response to future HABs.

In June 2019 he introduced the Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act (HR 3297) so that monitoring of HABs would not be interrupted. That bill gained 16 cosponsors, 12 Democrats and four Republicans. However, it never made it out of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Donalds’ bill was introduced with six cosponsors. Four are Republicans: Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.), Bill Posey (R-8-Fla.), Anthony Gonzalez (R-16-Ohio), Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.); and two Democrats: Reps. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-13-Mich.). Tlaib, a member of the liberal Democratic “squad,” also cosponsored Rooney’s bill.

Like its predecessor, Donalds’ bill has been referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology as well as the Committee on Natural Resources.

Analysis: What to watch

Voters should watch to see if Donalds can move this bill out of its committees and onto the floor during the current session. While Rooney sat on the Science Committee, Donalds is not on either of the committees of jurisdiction, so his climb is steeper.

This will be especially interesting to see given his attacks on Pelosi. In the previous Congress, Pelosi advanced Rooney’s legislation on offshore oil drilling to full House consideration. She might not be equally inclined to move this legislation this time.

The need for this legislation is less urgent than it was under President Donald Trump, who thought little of shutting down the government as a negotiating tactic (or in a temper tantrum). With Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress and a sane president in the White House, the probability of a government shutdown, at least over the next four years, is far lower than in the past.

From a substantive standpoint, of far greater importance to Southwest Florida is another measure introduced by Rooney: amending the Stafford Act to include HABs.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act defines which natural disasters are subject to federal emergency treatment. Algal blooms are not included. If Southwest Florida suffers another Big Bloom summer like 2018’s, the area’s governments, merchants and residents would be eligible for federal emergency funds and support if the Stafford Act is amended. Rooney tried to make this change with his Protecting Local Communities from Harmful Algal Blooms Act but it remained undone during his tenure. For Donalds, however, this kind of legislation might clash with his small-government, you’re-on-your-own ideology.

From a political standpoint, Donalds’ new HAB legislation may help close a gap that was threatening to widen into a vulnerability: his almost complete disinterest in the district and its needs. He received some minor, uncritical coverage of his bill in the local media, which was no doubt helpful to him in changing this perception.

On the record

Since our last Donalds Dossier, in major legislation Donalds toed the Republican Party line. He has:

Steube: No gold for the blue

Capitol Police try to hold back rioters during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

In other action by a Southwest Florida representative, Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), a vehement ever-Trumper and extreme conservative who represents the area from Punta Gorda to Venice and east to Okeechobee, chose to oppose honoring those who protected him during the Jan. 6 insurrection and attack on the Capitol building.

Steube’s action came after Pelosi proposed awarding three Congressional Gold Medals, Congress’ highest civilian honor, to the Capitol Police and the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police. The third medal, along with a plaque listing all the agencies that protected the Capitol that day, will be displayed in the Smithsonian Institution.

Pelosi’s sponsorship of the legislation was a rare move in the chamber, signifying its solemnity.

“January 6th was one of the darkest and deadliest days in American history,” Pelosi said in a speech on the floor.  “The waging of a violent insurrection against the United States Capitol and against our very democracy on that day was a profound horror that nearly defies comprehension.  That day, the country witnessed the gleeful desecration of our Temple of Democracy.”

While Jan. 6 was a day of “horror and heartbreak,” she said, “because of these courageous men and women, it was also a moment of extraordinary heroism.  That day the United States Capitol Police force put themselves between us and the violence.  They risked their safety and their lives for others with the utmost selflessness, and they did so because they were patriots – the type of Americans who heard the call to serve and answered it – putting country above self.” 

When the time came for a vote last Wednesday, March 17, Steube and 11 of his Republican colleagues didn’t agree. Instead, Steube blamed Pelosi for the insurrection and attack, saying in a statement:

“The unprecedented leadership failures of Speaker Pelosi, the U.S. Capitol Police Chief and the Sergeant at Arms put their officers, Members of Congress and the public at risk on January 6. They had the opportunity to call in the National Guard days before and refused to do so for ‘optics.’ There is no reason that Congress should now award the highest civilian medal to leaders who failed in protecting the Capitol, which led to their resignation and the shooting of an unarmed woman, just so Speaker Pelosi can check the box and say she supports law enforcement a week after Pelosi-led Democrats attacked the police by ending their qualified immunity and taking away their protective equipment.”

Rep. Greg Steube

Despite voting against the gold medals Steube maintained that he’s a “staunch defender” of law enforcement and opposed any movements to defund the police.

When the roll was called, the bill, HR 1085, passed by an overwhelming vote of 413 to 12, that included the Republican leadership.

In addition to Steube, the other nay votes were: Reps. Andy Biggs (R-5-Ariz.), Michael Cloud (R-27-Texas), Andrew Clyde (R-9-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fa.), Louis Gohmert (R-1-Texas), Bob Good (R-5-Va.), Lance Gooden (R-5-Texas), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-14-Ga.), Andy Harris (R-1-Md.), Thomas Massie (R-4-Ky.), John Rose (R-6-Tenn.).


Steube’s vote in this matter is outrageous, disgusting and shameful. His rationale is absurd. His indifference to the deaths of the officer who lost his life, Brian Sicknick, and those who took their own lives subsequently is despicable. He has forfeited any legitimate claim—or future claim—to be a defender of law enforcement. He and his colleagues deserve to be called “the dirty dozen” for rejecting this recognition for the police officers who stood their ground against the most repulsive attack on the American government in history.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

With one week to go: Southwest Florida’s state of play today

Cindy Banyai and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in Forth Myers on Saturday, Oct. 24. (Photo: Banyai campaign)

Oct. 27, 2020 by David Silverberg

Today marks one week before the General Election and while there’s saturation media coverage of national politics, there’s little publicly available data to determine the exact state of play in Southwest Florida.

Still, the national situation provides some context, particularly when it comes to Southwest Florida’s premier federal electoral contest, the battle to fill the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Francis Rooney in the 19th Congressional District.

But it’s not just politics that tells this year’s story because the COVID-19 virus has a vote—and this year, it is exercising that franchise in Lee and Collier counties.

The battle in the 19th

In the 19th Congressional District, the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island, Cindy Banyai, Democratic candidate for Congress, has maintained a vigorous campaign schedule, is active on social media and has racked up numerous new endorsements.

“Things are going very well and we’re optimistic heading into the last week of the elections,” Banyai told The Paradise Progressive. “We had some very promising polling numbers come back and our team is running through the finish line.”

After testing positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 16, prior to President Donald Trump’s visit to Fort Myers, Byron Donalds, her Republican opponent, announced yesterday, Oct. 26, that he had tested negative for COVID-19 and positive for antibodies and would return to the campaign trail for the last week of campaigning.

Donalds has not been running any advertising and the outside political action committees like Club for Growth that powered his primary bid are nowhere in evidence now.

While Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka came to Southwest Florida to campaign, neither mentioned Donalds during their appearances nor did anything to boost his campaign. His website has not announced any new endorsements since the primary.

From Minnesota with love

On Saturday, Oct. 24, Banyai and other Fort Myers Democrats welcomed Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to Fort Myers for a get-out-the-vote rally and speech.

Klobuchar, who arrived in a massive Biden/Harris campaign bus, said in an interview with Fox4 News: “People should not assume that areas like this that have traditionally been Republican, that everyone thinks the same. A lot of people have decided: ‘I’m going to put my country first and maybe I don’t agree with everything Joe Biden says but he’s a good person and he has competence.’”

“It was great to hear from Sen. Klobuchar,” observed Banyai. “She gave us some insight on how to win hearts and minds across party lines.”

Since the Aug. 18 primary, Banyai has been endorsed by numerous individuals and organizations. Other Democratic candidates include Andrew Ellison, Democratic congressional candidate in the 17th Congressional District; Jacquelyn McMiller, Democratic candidate for mayor of Fort Myers; Sara McFadden, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 106; Joshua Lopez, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 77; Shawn Williams, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 78; and Todd Truax, Democratic candidate for Lee County Commissioner District 3.

Organizations endorsing her candidacy include: the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida; the Progressive Club of the Islands; the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida; the LGBTQ Democratic Caucus; the Lee County LGBTQA Democratic Caucus;; the Sunrise Movement; and America Youth Climate Action.

The broader context

If either local candidate is able to ride the coattails of the candidate at the top of the ticket, the advantage would seem to go to Banyai.

Nationally, former Vice President Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris have an 87 percent chance of winning the presidency, according to the website’s Election Forecast. This site aggregates and analyzes numerous polls and data sources to reach its conclusions, making it more authoritative than just individual polls. What is more, rather than make hard predictions, FiveThirtyEight deals in probabilities, which is a much more reasonable way to project future outcomes.

Trump’s chances will likely also be hurt by the dizzying 615.19 point drop in the Dow Jones average that occurred yesterday on news that a compromise stimulus bill looked unlikely to be passed before the election.

In Florida, projects Biden/Harris as “slightly favored” to win with a 66 percent chance of flipping the state.

Focusing on Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties, 252,237 voters, or 51.56 percent of the electorate have voted in Lee County and 137,619 or 59.39 percent of voters have turned out in Collier County.

Ten days before the election, Collier County Democratic turnout was the highest in Florida, according to Florida Politics, and Democrats were turning out in record numbers in other traditionally Republican counties.

Likely to add to the urgency of Democratic voting was the Senate’s confirmation last night of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in a rushed process to beat the election.

“Congratulations on our newest Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, on her confirmation to the United States Supreme Court,” tweeted Donalds following the confirmation. “Justice Barrett will honor the rule of law and uphold the Constitution.”

“It’s truly disappointing to see Senate Republicans ram through a Supreme Court nominee so close to the presidential election when they denied an early election year appointment to Obama,” Banyai told The Paradise Progressive. “We should be concerned not only with the record of Barrett, who puts corporations ahead of people and threatens women’s rights and equality, but the jeopardy our democracy is put in when we no longer have an unbiased judiciary.”

The impact of COVID

Beyond the normal political considerations of an election campaign, the COVID pandemic continues to have an impact on everything: daily life, campaigning, and political passions—as witness Donalds’ infection.

Florida is seeing a rise in new cases, despite official efforts to dampen the impact of the statistics.

As of this writing, the Florida Department of Health lists 771,989 cases in Florida and 16,449 deaths overall since the start of the pandemic.

However, Rebekah Jones, the dissident data scientist who left the department, charging that the state government under Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was deliberately underreporting the impact of the plague, puts the overall number of state cases at 854,256 and deaths at 16,652.

In Lee County the Department of Health puts the cases at 22,541 and deaths at 506 with new cases at 172 yesterday. It does not provide the daily number of deaths.

However, Rebekah Jones puts Lee County’s toll at 24,009 cases and 516 deaths, with 176 new cases yesterday and no deaths.

In Collier County the Department of Health puts the cases at 13,972 and deaths at 253 with new cases at 48 yesterday and no daily reporting of deaths.

By contrast, Rebekah Jones puts Collier County’s toll at 15,413 cases and 260 deaths, with 48 new cases yesterday and no deaths.

With two largely unmasked gatherings to celebrate the visit to Fort Myers of Trump and then his daughter Ivanka, local COVID cases are likely to surge in the days ahead.

On Oct. 22, the Collier County Commission voted 3 to 2 to extend its mask mandate another six months. Donalds testified against the mandate when it was first considered in July. The Paradise Progressive reached out to the Donalds campaign to request his comment on the Commission’s latest decision but has not received a response.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

In-person voting starts, Donald disses Donalds; women, Dems, rise and ride: The SWFL roundup

A Collier County voter puts his ballot in an official drop box at the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office. (Photo: Author)

Oct. 19, 2020 by David Silverberg

Early in-person voting begins today in Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties.

Voting by mail has already been massive, according to both counties’ election supervisor offices. In Lee County, 135,997 votes had been cast, a turnout of 27.80 percent, as of yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18, at 11 am. In Collier County, 61,940 votes had been cast, 26.73 percent of the electorate, as of the same date and hour.

The in-person voting comes after an extraordinarily eventful weekend that began with a presidential visit to Fort Myers on Friday, Oct. 16—and the remarkable snub of what many had considered a rising Republican star.

Donald disses Donalds

President Donald Trump does his shout-outs to local officials and supporters–but not Byron Donalds–during his speech in Fort Myers on Oct. 16.

Friday should have been a big day for Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), who is running for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

Instead, it was a day that saw him forced to declare that he had come down with COVID-19. And to add insult to injury he was ignored and overlooked by his hero and idol, President Donald Trump.

During the Republican congressional primary this summer, few candidates touted their loyalty and subservience to President Donald Trump more than Donalds, who amidst his many accolades said he was “incredibly proud to stand with President Trump.” In the traditional mafia-like mindset in which Trump operates, such loyalty by a soldier should be repaid in kind by the mafia chieftain.

When the Godfather came to Fort Myers, it was an opportunity for a laying on of hands, for a blessing from the Boss himself in front of lots of local media and adoring Trumpers. It might have been the moment when Donalds decisively clinched the election 18 days before the votes were counted.

Instead, Donalds was tested for COVID-19 before meeting with Trump and turned up positive, which he announced on his Facebook page around 5 pm. He couldn’t come in contact with the president and instead of a public anointing it was his very public infection that was the headline about him dominating local news.

But beyond the embarrassment of a vociferously anti-mask Donalds catching COVID, there was the added disrespect (dissing) from his idol and hero.

In his speech at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center, Trump went through a series of shout-outs to local politicians and worthies, acknowledging and praising them.

One should not underestimate the importance of these shout-outs during political speeches and events. They’re something every politician does and while they may seem boring and formulaic to those in the audience, they’re critical to those named. In the case of a politician who has a blindly loyal following like Trump, they are an essential blessing and benediction—especially to candidates running for election.

In the middle of his speech Trump took the time to do a round of shout-outs. He named Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), whose popularity he compared to Elvis; he lauded as “warriors” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-12-Fla.)—“great job, Gus”—and Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.)—“another friend of mine.” Mayor Randy Henderson (R) was praised—“good job, Randy”—as was Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello (R)—“great job, great job.” He said he was honored by the presence of World War II and Korean War veteran Wally Cortese—“You look good, Wally, I’ll tell you. Two wars and you’re looking—you’re looking good,” (interestingly, not “thank you for your service.”). He also thanked members of the Golden Gate Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard.

And even if Donalds wasn’t present in the audience, any experienced observer of political rituals would have expected a shout-out to a faithful follower, especially one running for Congress from the president’s party, an ally whom the president would theoretically need in a second term. So the next name to trip from the president’s tongue should have been…Byron Donalds.

But there was no naming of Byron Donalds. Instead the president moved on to tell the audience how he was fighting to protect them from “the China virus” and the “radical-left movement.”

Make no mistake: Byron Donalds has been endorsed by Trump, who issued a tweet in his favor on Sept. 10—well after the Aug. 18 Republican primary. An endorsement during the primary race could have made all the difference in the world to Donalds. However, Trump has only been endorsing Republican candidates after they’ve won their primaries in what he regards as safe districts—to preserve his record of seeming infallibility in picking winners.

Nor was there a subsequent word of sympathy or a get-well wish from the notoriously unempathetic president. Indeed, Donalds got more compassion from his Democratic opponent Cindy Banyai who tweeted: “I wish him and his family well as he recovers.”

Apparently, when you’re COVID-infected you’re already dead to Donald Trump.

Democrats, women, rise up and ride

Wally and Carol Hedman, organizers of the “Dump Trump” caravan are interviewed before setting out in Fort Myers. (Photo: Author)

While the president’s visit brought out his supporters, it also mobilized Democrats and other Biden/Harris supporters.

On Friday, activists conducted a Ridin’ for Biden, “Dump Trump” caravan to counter Trump’s appearance in Fort Myers.

Inspired by an editorial in The Paradise Progressive, activist Wally Hedman, who has organized Biden/Harris rides in the past, served as organizer and lead driver for the caravan.

Consisting of 20-plus cars festooned with flags, signs and bunting, the caravan traveled up Route 41, through downtown Fort Myers and onto Martin Luther King Blvd., prior to Trump’s arrival.

The event was covered by WINK News’ Zach Oliveri and Fox4 News’ Rob Manch and the Fort Myers News-Press. NBC2 News did not cover it.

The “Dump Trump” caravan under way through the streets of Fort Myers. (Image: Fox4 News)

It demonstrated a Democratic presence amid the raucous Trump gathering.

Democratic demonstrators were also on the sidewalks outside the Caloosa Center to show their opposition to Trump. While there were some arguments with Trumpers, there were no physical altercations or arrests.

The following day the local chapter of the national Women’s March took to the streets of Fort Myers when approximately 300 supporters lined the sidewalks to “affirm our shared humanity and declare our bold message of advocacy and self-determination,” according to the local Women’s March website. “We march against sexism, racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, misuse or abuse of power, sexual abuse, discrimination against immigrants, gun violence, denial of environmental injustice, and lack of respect for human dignity,” it stated.

Participants in the Fort Myers Women’s March Day of Action protest on Saturday, Oct. 17. (Image: NBC2)

Superspeader event

Trump’s appearance at the Caloosa Center was invitation-only and limited to 400 people, although some random people on the street were allowed in just prior to the start of the event. Inside, attendees were distanced from each other and masks were worn. People coming into contact with Trump were tested for coronavirus prior to the event, which is how Byron Donalds’ infection was discovered.

An unmasked Trumper confronts masked Biden/Harris supporters during Trump’s visit to Fort Myers. (Photo: Fox4 News, by Juan Reina)

However, on the street outside numerous Trumpers were largely unmasked and crowded together, creating conditions for a COVID superspreader event.

As of Sunday, Oct. 18, the Florida Department of Health was reporting 755,020 cases in the state and a total of 15,967 deaths among state residents. In Lee County that came to 21,625 cases and 492 deaths. However, the Florida COVID Action Site created by dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones, who has charged that the state is suppressing coronavirus data, reports 824,724 cases and 16,118 deaths statewide. In Lee County, it reports 23,005 cases and 502 deaths since March 1.

With an incubation period of 10 to 14 days, Lee County medical facilities should start seeing an influx of coronavirus victims from the Trump visit around Halloween.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Roundup: COVID, masks and Byron Donalds; a ‘no’ to stimulus and QAnon; and a loud silence

Maskless State Rep. Byron Donalds and President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 23. (Photo: White House by Joyce N. Boghasian)

Oct. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg

On Saturday, Oct. 3, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and quarantine, Cindy Banyai, Democratic congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District called on her opponent, Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), to quarantine himself, having met with the president.

“Given the current skyrocketing rate of infection among White House staff and event attendees, and considering Mr. Donalds is still in the potential incubation period of 14 days, I think it would be in the best interest of our community if he quarantined until that window has passed,” she said in a statement. “He should also get tested for COVID-19 and release the results, so anyone he may have exposed to the virus in the interim can have the best information possible to take care of themselves and their loved ones. This is especially important because of Mr. Donalds’ stance against mask wearing, which is effective in reducing transmission rates of the virus.”

Donalds met with the president in Washington, DC on Sept. 23, where he was photographed in the Oval Office. He told the Fort Myers News-Press that he had been tested for the virus on Friday, Oct. 2, and the results were negative. He said he had also tested negative prior to his meeting with Trump.

“After you’ve had two negative tests within 10 days, that’s sufficient,” he told reporter Amy Bennett Williams. “I have no symptoms … That puts it to rest. I’m fine.”

“I was disappointed to see Mr. Donalds attend indoor events without social distancing or masks in Southwest Florida over the past week, including events after the announcement of the president testing positive for COVID19,” stated Banyai. “It seems like he is not taking the risk seriously and doesn’t care about the people in our community.”

Donalds has vociferously opposed mask mandates by local governments, arguing that mask wearing should be an individual decision. He appeared at the Cape Coral City Council to oppose masking when that body debated a mandate on July 6.

“You have no authority to mandate what people can put on their body. The fear people are having doesn’t justify it,” Donalds said at the time. “As a council, you have the solemn duty to vote this down and get back to common sense.”

On July 14, when the Collier County Commission first debated a mask mandate, Donalds argued it would put “extensive burdens” on local law enforcement.

“How are you going to have them enforce such a mandate?” he asked commissioners. “Who are they going to decide to enforce it on and who are they not going to enforce it on? There are major issues with such an order.” The commission ultimately voted in a mask mandate.

Donalds repeated his positions during his televised debate with Banyai on Sept. 28 at the studio of WGCU.

Donalds has not worn a mask at public events he has attended.

There is no indication that Donalds has changed his position on mask mandates given the president’s diagnosis and the spread of COVID-19 among high-level officials and presidential intimates.

On Oct. 2, The Paradise Progressive sent the following questions to the Byron Donalds for Congress campaign:

1. In light of the president’s contracting coronavirus, have you changed or altered your position against government mask mandates?

A. If you have made any changes, please state your current policy position.

2. What is your position on wearing masks in general?

No answer has been received to date.

President Donald Trump leaves the White House wearing a mask on is way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 2.

No on stimulus, yes on QAnon

Southwest Florida congressional representatives, Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted against a second stimulus package in Congress last week.

Called the HEROES Act (House Resolution 925), the bill passed late Thursday, Oct. 1, by a vote of 214 to 207.

The bill provides $2.2 trillion in relief to people, businesses, states and local governments hard hit by the pandemic. It is a follow-on to a previous $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed in May that propped up a badly damaged economy.

Passage of the bill occurred following a stalemate in talks between House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The administration had proposed a $1.6 trillion package and the two were unable to resolve their differences, so Pelosi proceeded with the House version.

None of the Southwest Florida congressmen issued statements explaining their votes.

The bill is not expected to make any progress in the Senate.

The same day, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1154, “Condemning QAnon and rejecting the conspiracy theories it promotes.”

While not a law, the bill explicitly condemned the online QAnon conspiracy theory as well as “all other groups and ideologies, from the far left to the far right, that contribute to the spread of unfounded conspiracy theories and that encourage Americans to destroy public and private property and attack law enforcement officers.” It called on federal agencies and the intelligence community to investigate and “uncover any foreign support, assistance, or online amplification QAnon receives.”

This bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 371 to 18.

Of Southwest Florida’s representatives, Diaz-Balart and Steube voted for it. Rooney was absent.

No endorsement here

On Sept. 29 the News-Press and on Oct. 4 the Naples Daily News published an op-ed by Rep. Francis Rooney and Michael Whittaker, a conservation activist, titled, “Climate is on the ballot in Florida this November.”

It argued that voters should elect environmental champions this November given the urgency of climate issues facing Southwest Florida. It made the case that political conservatives have to take the lead in devising market-based solutions to environmental threats.

“As constituents of Southwest Florida, when we head to the ballot box this fall, we need to remain vigilant and strong to ensure that our principles are upheld and our environment is protected,” they wrote.

Politically, what was most interesting about the op-ed was what it didn’t say: it didn’t endorse any candidates running and most especially did not mention Byron Daniels, whom Rooney might have been expected to anoint as a fellow Republican seeking to fill his seat. Rooney has not made any endorsements of any candidates to date.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

For the record: SWFL Democrats, Republicans, react to Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo: SCOTUS)

Sept. 19, 2020 by David Silverberg

In a rare show of common sentiment, Southwest Florida Democrats and Republicans expressed respect and admiration for Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her passing on Friday, Sept. 18.

Immediate reactions to the news of Ginsburg’s death, which was released around 7:00 pm, went out on social media.

“Complete shock and sadness to learn of the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sending my condolences to her family. We are so fortunate to have had her leadership. Thank you RBG. Now it’s our turn to pick up the fight,” tweeted Cindy Banyai, Democratic congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District.

“Tonight, as we mourn the passing of one of the most effective Supreme Court Justices in history, we remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s work as critically important in the way that many Americans are able to live their lives in freedom,” stated Annisa Karim, Collier County Democratic Party chair on Facebook. “Not only did she blaze a path for equality for women, she was a staunch defender of everyone’s civil liberties. She used her immense talent to do her work to the best of her ability. The freedoms we have won through her hard work and determination can just as easily be reversed with the appointment of Supreme Court Justices bent on returning the Country to a place of liberty and justice for the privileged few. Her legacy is in our hands now and we must work to protect it because when we succeed in that, we succeed in procuring liberty and justice for all.”

State Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), Banyai’s Republican opponent in the 19th Congressional District tweeted: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer and a tenacious fighter for what she believed in. May she rest in peace, and may God comfort her children and grandchildren at this time.”

Among Republican members of Congress, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) tweeted: “It is a sad day for our nation. Kathleen & I offer our deepest sympathies on the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The passing of Justice Ginsberg is a great loss for our highest court, and for America. She was a champion of women’s rights and had a love of our country that was unchallenged. Her passion and opinions will remain with us throughout history. May she rest in peace.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) tweeted: “Saddened to hear of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. She was the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court. Her legacy and public service to our nation will not be forgotten. My condolences to her family and colleagues. May she Rest In Peace.”

The tweet of Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) took a Biblical turn: “May the Lord be with the family of Justice Ginsburg during this difficult time. Despite our different perspectives, she had an immense impact on generations of women lawyers across our country. Rev. 21:4.” The reference is to Revelations Chapter 21, verse 4 in the New Testament: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Florida’s two Republican senators, who will vote on confirming Ginsburg’s replacement, both praised her service on the court.

“Even those who disagreed with many of her decisions recognize Justice Ginsburg was a woman of extraordinary intellect & an American who had a historic impact on the court & the nation. May she Rest In Peace,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio.

“Ann and I send our thoughts and prayers to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during this time,” tweeted Sen. Rick Scott. “She was a trailblazer with a distinguished record of service to her country.”

Scott has since called for a vote on Ginsburg’s replacement before Election Day, Nov. 3.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Roundup: Signs of unity; Dems team up; Rep. Rooney denounces Trump tax order

Video of a racist sign vandal fleeing the Seed to Table parking lot. (Image: WINK News)

Sept. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg

It is a rare moment nowadays when Democrats and Republicans can agree on anything–but it has actually happened in Collier County.

Yesterday, Sept. 3, the chairs of the Collier County Democratic Party and Collier County Republicans issued a joint statement “condemning the vandalism and theft of political signs. Not only is it unlawful, it is disrespectful and anti-democratic.”

The statement is signed by Annisa Karim, the county Democratic chairwoman and Russell Tuff, the Republican chairman.

“As the election gets closer, many of us become more passionate about the candidates we support,” says the statement. “That’s true for us, and it’s true for our neighbors. The beauty of the First Amendment to our Constitution is that it protects everyone’s right to free speech—theirs and ours!”

Reports of lawn sign theft, removal and vandalism appeared throughout the month of August.

The signs of Jim Molenaar, county candidate for clerk of the court, were defaced and when he personally confronted the vandal in a parking lot, the vandal fled.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), Republican congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District, had his signs in the parking lot of the Seed to Table market defaced with racial slurs; Donalds is African American. In his case an arrest was made of Jeffrey Rouse, 40, after Rouse went on a racist rant against an African American woman in a video that went viral. Arrested following a 100 mile-per-hour chase by police, Rouse was suspected of defacing of Donalds’ signs.

Drew-Montez Clark, also African-American and a Republican candidate for Donalds’ Florida House seat, also had his signs vandalized with racial slurs.

Individuals have also reported sign thefts and disappearances in letters to the editors of local newspapers.

The sign vandalism and thefts mostly occurred during the primary races but passions are expected to rise as the general election approaches.

The joint Democratic and Republican Collier County party statement concludes: “Let’s decide the election at the ballot box!”

Mutual endorsements in the 19th and 17th

Two Democratic congressional candidates have endorsed each other and are planning mutually supportive activities.

Cindy Banyai, the Democratic congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District and Allen Ellison in the 17th District issued their mutual endorsements yesterday, Sept. 3.

Banyai is facing Byron Donalds. Ellison is taking on incumbent Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), a vocal and strident supporter of President Donald Trump.

While the endorsement announcement did not list any actions the candidates would be taking together, they are discussing mutual events and activities, according to Banyai.

Rooney dissents from Trump payroll tax order

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), yesterday, Sept. 3, issued a two-tweet thread opposing Trump’s executive order deferring payroll taxes for federal employees. Trump’s opposition to the payroll tax threatens the Social Security program.

“The employee portion payroll tax deferral is a reckless idea that will put many employees in jeopardy for the deferred liability when it becomes due, since they will have already spent the deferred amounts,” Rooney stated in his first tweet. “This is truly an unworkable idea and can only result in more disastrous policy. Deferred amounts will either be forgiven or reimbursed by the federal government or worse, employers will be required to pay them,” he added in the second.

Trump has called for a national payroll tax cut or deferment of 6.2 percent. The action would severely impact the Social Security program, which is funded through the tax.

Congress, including many Republican members, is unwilling to pass the cut and many businesses are reluctant to implement it. With negotiations on a larger stimulus package deadlocked, Trump chose to act on his own.

On Aug. 8, Trump issued a memorandum to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin deferring the taxes for 1.3 million federal employees, which he has the authority to do. However, while the withholding is deferred for 2020, the taxes will have to be paid by the employees next year and would result in smaller paychecks.

 Everett Kelley, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, has called the Trump action “a scam that leaves workers with a substantial tax bill right after the holiday season. Workers will have to pay double their regular payroll tax rate during the first four months of 2021, and if they cannot do so, they will have to pay interest and penalties on amounts still owed if they’re not paid back by May 1, 2021,” 

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

SWFL’s 19th congressional endorsement race: Who’s ahead and who’s endorsing whom–UPDATED

08-06-20 Endorsements 2

Aug. 7, 2020 by David Silverberg

Updated 11:45 am with correction to Banyai endorsements and new addition, 5:00 pm with Donalds NRA endorsement.

We’re in the final days of the primary races in Southwest Florida. Early in-person voting begins tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 8. Mail-in voting has been underway since ballots were mailed out in mid-July.

The race is down to inches—and insults. With in-person campaigning and canvassing curtailed due to the pandemic, it’s a battle of clashing television ads and claims.

But one aspect of traditional campaigning that the pandemic hasn’t derailed is endorsements.

Endorsements are very important. When made, campaign communication directors should blare them to the heavens. Do endorsements move voters? Well, some do. But equally important, they have a cumulative impact. They can tell a lot about a candidate’s support and presumably an endorser brings a whole host of followers to the favored candidate’s camp.

In fact, so important are endorsements that, the statistical journalism website, created a whole system for evaluating endorsements during the Democratic primary race beginning last year. Endorsements are significant, wrote FiveThirtyEight’s founder Nate Silver, because while they don’t mean “the candidate leading in endorsements will automatically win the nomination, or even necessarily be an odds-on favorite,” endorsements are nonetheless an indicator of a political party establishment’s support for a candidate and the ultimate nominee is usually the one favored by the party leadership.

As it goes for the presidential primary races, so it should go for Southwest Florida’s 19th Congressional District primary race, which with 12 candidates, is one of the most crowded and contentious in the country.

This article looks at all the endorsements for congressional primary candidates of both parties. The endorsements are in four categories: organizations; candidates (meaning candidates in other races); activists (people who are active and prominent in pursuing particular causes); and others (by which are meant current and former officials).

Unlike FiveThirtyEight, this does not give numerical points to different endorsements. It also doesn’t count ratings from organizations, which are usually given as grades from A to F. Endorsements counted here are specific to each candidate, although organizations often endorse numerous candidates, whether competing or not. It is also important to note that the local political parties will not endorse candidates until after the primary and the party conventions.

We checked all the candidates’ websites for lists of endorsements (some seemed to actually hide their endorsements or make them as difficult to access as possible), included their press releases and invited all candidates to list any endorsements that are pending or might not yet be posted.


In the Democratic primary race, candidates David Holden and Cindy Banyai have both been endorsed by the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida.

Also on the environmental front, Holden has been endorsed by VoteWater Florida, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization designed to identify candidates supporting clean water initiatives.

Among other candidates, Holden, who ran in 2018, has been endorsed by his former rival, Todd Truax, who is currently running for Lee County Board of Commissioners, District 3; Javier Estevez, running for state representative in District 105; and Sara McFadden, who is running for state representative in District 106.

Among community activists, Holden has been endorsed by Crystal Johnson, president of the Community Forum Foundation, a community-building non-profit based in Fort Myers, and W. Earl Sparrow Jr., a community activist and organizer in Fort Myers.

Banyai has been endorsed by: Lee County Young Democrats, No Dem Left Behind, a movement of Democrats running in heavily Republican districts, Moms Demand Action, an organization calling for an end to gun violence, Women for the Win, a coalition of media professionals helping female candidates, 90 for 90, a voter registration organization, Peaceful Protests Lee County, a grassroots protest and gatherings group, and Boots of Recovery, a group that seeks to raise political awareness for recovery acceptance and solutions.

Candidates who have endorsed Banyai (and whom Banyai has endorsed in turn) are: Rachel Brown, candidate for state Senate District 27; Katherine Norman, candidate for state Senate District 23; state representative candidates Anselm Weber, District 76; Maureen Porras, District 105; Danika Fornear, District 79; Juan Gonzales, Lee County Commission District 5; and Connie Bennett-Martin, candidate for Fort Myers Ward 4.

Among community activists, Banyai has been endorsed by: Alexandra Anderes, a Fort Myers attorney; Isaiah Carter, a campaign worker; Johnnie Terrell, a Fort Myers social worker; and Eddie Thinger, a Florida Gulf Coast University graduate, who serves as her press secretary.

(Of note: The Paradise Progressive has endorsed in this race.)


Of the Republican candidates, state Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) has by far the largest number of endorsements. Partially, this is a result of his prominence as Florida state House Majority Leader and his numerous connections. Even at the young age of 37 he’s been a prominent politician for a long time.

He’s also the candidate who has come closest to running a traditional campaign. If not for the pandemic, he’d be the guy with the ground game; volunteer door knockers, phone callers and envelope stuffers who have gotten people elected in the past.

Eagle started collecting endorsements immediately after his campaign announcement on Nov. 6, 2019 and he’s made a real effort to solicit them.

Of course, the big endorsement has to date eluded him. Despite slavish devotion and pictures of him with President Donald Trump from a single encounter appearing in all his campaign literature and media platforms, the Big Man has not reached down into this particular primary race to anoint Eagle his chosen one. That one endorsement would probably have settled this contest long ago.

Despite what surely must be a disappointment, Eagle has racked up 22 endorsements from individuals, many sitting Republican officials, more than any other candidate.

The most prominent of these is Florida’s senior US senator, Marco Rubio. He has also been endorsed by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-12-Fla.)

Of sitting state officials, Eagle has been endorsed by State Attorney Amira Fox; state Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson; and state Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto, District 27. Sitting state representatives include: House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls, Ray Rodrigues, and Spencer Roach.

Local mayors Kevin Ruane of Sanibel, JoeCovielo of Cape Coral, and Bill Ribble of Estero have endorsed him. Local officials include: Sanibel Councilwoman Holly Smith; Lee County Sheriff Carmen Marceno; Kathy Smith, public defender; Larry Hart, tax collector, and Linda Doggett, clerk of the court.

Nor has Eagle overlooked former officials, being endorsed by: Jeff Kottkamp, former lieutenant governor; former state representatives Matt Caldwell, Gary Aubuchon and Trudi Williams; former Cape Coral mayors Joe Mazurkiewicz and Eric Feichthaler; former Lee County sheriff Mike Scott; and former state attorney Steve Russell.

Eagle has also been endorsed by Doris Cortese, the “godmother” of Lee County Republican politics, who encouraged him to run the minute Rep. Francis Rooney announced his retirement in October 2019.

In terms of organizations, Eagle has been endorsed by Florida Police Benevolent Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Home Builders and Personhood FL ProLife PAC.

The only other candidate who can count a US senator as an endorser is state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), who has been endorsed by US Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Donalds has also received endorsements from prominent national conservative organizations: Americans for Prosperity, Florida Family Action, the Republican Liberty Caucus, Empower America and Club for Growth. He is the only 19th District candidate to receive a full endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

The next most endorsed Republican is Dan Severson but his endorsements are from out of state. Reflecting his time in the Minnesota state house, he has been endorsed by former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, New Jersey-based Tea Party activist Michael Johns, and Texas-based Clint Lorance, a US Army officer who was court martialed and found guilty of second degree murder in Afghanistan and pardoned by Trump in 2019.

The other candidates in the field have received single endorsements or none at all: Casey Askar has been endorsed by the Everglades Trust; William Figlesthaler has been endorsed by former Florida state senator Garrett Richter of District 23; and Darren Aquino has been endorsed by the New York Young Republican Club.

Candidates Randy Henderson, Daniel Kowal and Christy McLaughlin do not list any endorsements on their websites or other platforms. Information on Independent Antonio Dumornay is not available.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg