BREAKING NEWS: Banyai wins Dem nomination in congressional race; GOP contest still undecided

Cindy Banyai

Aug. 18, 2020 by David Silverberg

With all precincts reporting, Cindy Banyai is the winner of the Democratic primary in the 19th Congressional District.

David Holden called her to concede shortly after 8 pm, Banyai told The Paradise Progressive.

“It’s such an honor to be selected as the Democratic nominee in such a year as 2020,” she said in an interview. “This shows that Southwest Floridians are craving real leadership by people ready to serve the people.”

Banyai brought in 28,731 votes or 58 percent to David Holden’s 21,192 or 42 percent, according to a WINK News tabulation that included data from both Lee and Collier counties.

Banyai celebrated with an online party and then put her three children to bed at 8:30.

In State Representative District 105, which held a Democratic primary, Maureen Porras was the winner with 63.5 percent of the vote, or 1,452 votes, to Javier Estevez who had 36.5 percent or 835 votes.

As of 9:00 pm, the winner of the Republican primary was not yet clear, with state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee) leading in Collier County with 8,300 votes or 28.7 percent of the vote, according to the official count of the Collier County Elections Office, and state Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) leading in Lee County with 18,772, or 25.10 percent of the votes, according to the Lee County Elections Office.

In the hotly contested state Senate District 27, state Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-76-Estero) was well ahead of state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers), by a vote of 47,935 or 74.8 percent of the vote to Fitzenhagen’s 16,115 votes or 25.16 percent. The Republican winner there will face Democrat Rachel Brown.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

A Democratic endorsement

01-15-20 Holden and BanyaiDavid Holden and Cindy Banyai are introduced at a meeting by Collier County Democratic Chair Annisa Karim this past January.       (Photo: Author)

July 21, 2020

Democrats in Southwest Florida have never been blessed with an abundance of political candidates but this year is different—there are two capable and attractive Democratic candidates for Congress and that means Democrats have a difficult choice ahead of them.

As stated in a past posting, it has always been the position of The Paradise Progressive that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse a candidate when choices are hard. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis gives journalists insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local television, print newspapers or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice. Any endorsement offends some people but that comes with taking a stand on anything.

When it comes to the race for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, Democrats have to make a selection between candidates Cindy Banyai and David Holden.

Both are excellent people. Both bring great virtues to the table. Both are intelligent and articulate. Both have run civilized campaigns focused on the issues and solutions to problems. Democrats should be proud of their conduct.

Importantly, both are committed to preserving democracy and the best values of America. Both seek to serve all the people of Southwest Florida. Both believe that healthcare is a right, the environment needs to be protected and justice and equality need to advance.

Both have strong educational credentials. Holden has a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. Banyai has a PhD from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan.

David Holden, 61, is thoughtful, insightful, extremely well versed in the issues and has real compassion for people and a deep commitment to social justice. He genuinely cares about overlooked and underserved communities. Thanks to his 2018 run, voters in the District, especially in Collier County, are familiar with him.

Cindy Banyai, 40, is a mom with a strong sense of social justice and a fearless willingness to fight for what she believes is right. She has energy and determination and is a fast learner. She is intimately familiar with the issues and challenges facing families, especially with school-aged children, of which she has three. Living in Fort Myers, she’s especially well versed in the needs and geography of Lee County.

So how is a Democrat to choose?

Looking to the future

It makes sense to look beyond the individuals to the job demands of a member of the US House of Representatives and the situation that is likely to confront those members when the 117th Congress convenes in January 2021.

This assumes, of course, that the United States is still governed under its original Constitution, that the election takes place as scheduled, and civil order prevails. These are no longer givens, thanks to President Donald Trump’s drive for “total domination” and unwillingness to commit to accepting the results of the vote. In fact, by next year the nation could be in a state of civil war or something like it. Also, the election may have been disrupted or in dispute, and even if defeated Trump could still be insisting on staying in office.

But for the purpose of this essay, let’s assume that the election takes place as scheduled and life goes on as in the past, in something akin to pre-Trump “normal” or close to it.

Now, what follows are not absolute predictions of the future; rather they’re scenarios and, in fact, one hopes that they turn out better than at first glance. But they’re certainly plausible given where we are today and they represent the environment in which the next Congress may be working.

First, the members of the 117th Congress may very well have to govern a nation that is essentially bankrupt. Between the economic crash, the ravages of coronavirus, the emergency spending that’s been done to date and the impacts of Trump’s changes to the tax system, the government may be in a situation that is effectively bankrupt.

Secondly, the odds are high that the country may be in a full-blown economic depression. The kinds of stock market crashes Wall Street has suffered under Trump will not be overcome with just an election and a change of administration. Trump has deeply injured America’s trade and international economic relationships.

Third, unemployment may be at Depression-era levels and take many years to recover.

Fourth, coronavirus will likely still be with us. There’s no telling what the state of the pandemic will be in January. It’s unlikely to disappear like a miracle, as Trump promised. Even if vaccines are developed, tested and proven by late 2020 or early 2021, huge numbers of people around the world—but especially Americans—are likely to still be suffering and dying. Social distancing is likely to still be in force.

The impacts of Trump’s tenure on defense and foreign affairs are too numerous to delve into here but they will certainly preoccupy Congress.

The next Congress will also be deeply engaged in investigating and rooting out the corruption that Trump introduced into government.

Overall, the 117th Congress is likely to be overwhelmingly preoccupied with the work of renewal, restoration and repair.

So if this is the situation that the new members of Congress will confront when they take office, what will the representative of the 19th Congressional District and Southwest Florida have to do?

  • Any representative will have to do whatever can be done to ensure that Southwest Florida gets as many federal unemployment and economic benefits as possible, to cope with what is already a devastated local economy.
  • The representative will have to ensure that Social Security benefits continue to flow to the area’s seniors who are entitled to them and depend on them.
  • The representative will have to ensure that in a time of crisis and straitened circumstances the area receives the federal support that has already been promised for projects like the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project, Hoover Dike restoration and harmful algal bloom protection. Remember: the federal government will be trying to cut costs anywhere it can and environmental management is likely to be on the chopping block. Trump already tried to shortchange Southwest Florida on its contracted appropriations; that can’t be allowed to happen again.
  • The representative will have to bring whatever aid is available to a region that is still going to be in the grip of coronavirus. That means getting federal support for medical supplies and whatever other needs the area’s healthcare system requires.
  • The representative should continue trying to make the moratorium on offshore oil exploitation permanent.
  • The area could see widescale homelessness as a result of the economic depression and unemployment as occurred in the 1930s; the representative will have to work to get as much federal assistance as possible to address that problem.
  • If the area suffers a devastating hurricane in the 2020 season, the representative will have to fight for a share of emergency funding and support starting on the first day of the 2021 term.

These are some of the real challenges that will likely confront a newly elected congressional representative. Elections may be lost and won on grand rhetoric and sweeping visions but the truth is that these are some of the unglamorous tasks that will be pressing, immediate and urgent on the first day a new representative takes office.

So who is best equipped to meet them?

Endorsement

During the course of this campaign, Cindy Banyai took two particularly impressive actions.

The first came when she was trying to get the state to postpone the deadline for candidate filings due to the coronavirus.

To do this, she pulled together a coalition of candidates from around the state from both parties. It showed that she was willing to work across the political aisle to get something done and reach a goal she had set. It took initiative and an openness to converse with people holding different opinions and political allegiances. Ultimately, she was successful and was able to file, which is why she’s on the ballot today.

Banyai’s second initiative came when WINK-TV News held an online and on-camera debate among District 19 congressional candidates—and didn’t invite any Democrats to participate.

Banyai drafted a letter to WINK management protesting this oversight. But she didn’t just send the letter. She reached out to her opponent, David Holden, and convinced the chairs of both the Lee and Collier Democratic parties to sign on. She drafted the letter and it was approved by all parties with a single word change. When the letter was brought to the attention of WINK management a second Democratic debate was held (even though this one was only online).

By these actions, Banyai displayed an instinct to reach out to all parties on an issue and showed a skill for coalition-building. Bringing people together and building coalitions are what she has done her entire professional life. These are perhaps the most critical instincts and skills for getting anything tangible done in Congress. It’s how laws are made, money is appropriated and legislation is passed.

She consistently displayed initiative and energy in campaigning even when coronavirus curtailed in-person events. She has also consistently promoted a progressive agenda and in a measure of her commitment to Democratic values, she got into the race in September 2019 despite the fact that Rep. Francis Rooney looked like he would run for a third term, his victory seemed certain and the odds for any challenger were long at best.

She also has some actual congressional experience as an intern on Capitol Hill. It may not be much but it’s more Washington experience than any other candidate of any party in the race—and despite its widespread disparagement, the past four years have shown that experience counts for a great deal.

Lastly, her past as a pugilist stands her in good stead: she knows how to take a punch to the face and keep on fighting.

Banyai hasn’t just talked the talk, she’s already walked the walk.

As a result of these actions, experiences and instincts, Cindy Banyai should be the next congressional representative from the 19th Congressional District.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Cooperation

On January 16 of this year, Banyai and Holden sat together at the Collier County Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus meeting. They were asked if each would support the winner of the Democratic primary and both agreed.

That was not an idle question and it was not an insignificant answer. It was a solemn pledge and Democrats should expect both candidates to abide by it.

Despite the long odds in the 19th District, there is a Democratic path to victory. In a year when the Republican standard bearer is clearly unfit and increasing numbers of Republicans are recognizing it, there is a real possibility that a Democratic alternative could win in Southwest Florida. Democrats should aggressively pursue it.

After this primary, local Democrats need to unite. Whoever wins, both candidates should campaign together—and not just pro-forma, phone-it-in campaigning. They should aggressively and energetically share platforms, tweets, online conferences and town halls, statements, campaign materials and most of all, funding. When in-person campaigning becomes possible again, they should appear together early and often. These are two talented and committed people. Together they will make a dynamic team.

It will be essential that Democrats show Southwest Floridians of all political affiliations that the Party is united and committed to ideals and positions that will benefit everyone.

The upcoming primary should not be a loss for anyone; it should be a win for Southwest Florida.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

SWFL State of Play Today: Holden reveals endorsements; Banyai launches video

June 22, 2020 by David Silverberg

04-16-20 David Holden cropped
David Holden

Democratic congressional candidate David Holden has revealed a slew of Democratic endorsements in the primary race for the Florida 19th Congressional District race, according to a Holden campaign press release.

The endorsements include Javier Estevez, Democratic candidate running for Florida House District 105 (interior Collier and Miami-Dade counties) and Sara McFadden, Democratic candidate in Florida House District 106 (coastal Collier County).

Todd Truax, Holden’s rival in the 2018 congressional primary race, is now running for the Lee County Board of Commissioners District 3 (southern Lee County). Holden has endorsed Truax’s bid.

Holden also announced endorsements from two community activists: W. Earl Sparrow Jr., a community organizer in Lee County; and Crystal Johnson, president of the Community Forum Foundation, a Fort Myers-based non-profit foundation helping children and families.

Banyai drops new video

06-22-20 Banyai videoA scene in Cindy Banyai’s new video.       (Image: Banyai for Congress Campaign)

Cindy Banyai, a Democratic candidate in the 19th Congressional District, unveiled a new campaign video and advertisement on June 17.

The 1-minute, 6-second video, titled “Our Community,” introduces Banyai and touts her community commitment, family ties and intention “to bring the voice of the people of Southwest Florida” to Washington, DC.

Asked about his campaign’s plans for video ads, Holden told The Paradise Progressive that he intends to release ads following the Aug. 18 primary.

Coming soon: Paranoiapalooza

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

WINK News schedules Democratic debate

May 6, 2020 by David Silverberg.

WINK-News TV, Fort Myers, Fla., is scheduling an online debate between Democratic congressional candidates in Southwest Florida.

05-06-20 Morgan Rynor
Morgan Rynor

The time and date is awaiting confirmation but it will be moderated by reporter Morgan Rynor.

The scheduled debate follows issuance of a letter yesterday by Southwest Florida’s Democratic congressional candidates and party chairs calling for fair and equal treatment of all candidates in the 19th Congressional District.

Cindy Banyai and David Holden and the Lee and Collier County Democratic parties issued the call in an open letter, stating: “We urge the local media to host a Democratic primary candidate forum. Some local news outlets have already hosted a Republican primary debate, giving the candidates ample time to express their views and platforms.”

It continued: “We strongly believe that the constituents in our district deserve to hear from all candidates equally, regardless of political affiliations.” (The entire letter is included below.)

The letter charged that local news outlets have carried only Republican candidates and that the lack of interest in the Democratic candidates “appears to be a direct attempt to maintain the status quo.”

On April 27, WINK-TV hosted an online debate for only the Republican candidates. Democrats were not invited. Following questions from The Paradise Progressive, WINK scheduled the Monday debate.

To date the only forum involving all candidates of both parties was one online hosted by the Florida Citizens Alliance, a non-profit conservative organization advocating for a return to basic education. The entire 1 hour, 20 minute discussion can be viewed on YouTube.

The Paradise Progressive hosted two text-only debates between the Democratic candidates on Coronavirus and the Southwest Florida economy on April 13 and April 17.

During the 2018 congressional campaign the Southwest Florida League of Women Voters issued a debate invitation to Democratic candidate David Holden and incumbent Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, setting a date of Sept. 17. However, Rooney replied that he had no availability on that date or any in the future and that all his positions were known. Despite a letter from Holden directly to Rooney and complaints to local media, no debate ever took place.

The full text of the Democratic candidates’ letter:

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing this letter on behalf of the Lee and Collier County Democratic Parties, and Congressional candidates for Florida Congressional District 19 Cindy Banyai and David Holden. We urge the local media to host a Democratic primary candidate forum. Some local news outlets have already hosted a Republican primary debate, giving the candidates ample time to express their views and platforms.

Despite several requests from the candidates and the county parties, no local news outlets have attempted to put together a Democratic primary candidate forum. Florida’s 19th district is a Republican-leaning district and the lack of interest in the Democratic primaries appears to be a direct attempt to maintain the status quo.

We strongly believe that the constituents in our district deserve to hear from all candidates equally, regardless of political affiliations. Especially now during this national pandemic, constituents are relying on media to cover politics. Unlike normal years when candidates have the opportunities to be out in the district campaigning, meeting voters face-to-face, our candidates have had to take to unconventional methods of campaigning.

Many constituents rely on their local news sources to stay up to date with their political candidates and provide an unbiased view. The fact that Republican candidates have been able to reach these viewers and the Democratic candidates have not been afforded the same opportunities by local news stations is shameful.

We are hoping that this letter spurs the news outlets to do the right thing and reach out to the Lee and Collier County Democratic Parties, Cindy Banyai, and David Holden about scheduling the democratic primary candidate forums.

Sincerely,

Dr. Cindy Banyai

David Holden

Annisa Karim, Chair of Democratic Party of Collier County

Gabriele Spuckers, Chair of Democratic Party of Lee County

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWFL Democrats call for local media to host fair and inclusive debate

01-15-20 Holden and BanyaiDemocratic congressional candidates David Holden and Cindy Banyai.    (Photo: Author)

May 6, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Southwest Florida’s Democratic congressional candidates and party chairs came together yesterday to call on local news outlets to host a fair and inclusive debate.

Cindy Banyai, David Holden, candidates for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, and the Lee and Collier County Democratic party chairs issued the call in an open letter, stating: “We urge the local media to host a Democratic primary candidate forum. Some local news outlets have already hosted a Republican primary debate, giving the candidates ample time to express their views and platforms.”

It continued: “We strongly believe that the constituents in our district deserve to hear from all candidates equally, regardless of political affiliations.” (The entire letter is included below.)

The letter charges that local news outlets have carried only Republican candidates and that the lack of interest in the Democratic candidates “appears to be a direct attempt to maintain the status quo.”

On April 27, WINK-TV hosted an online debate for only the Republican candidates. Democrats were not invited nor has a follow-up debate been discussed or scheduled. (Questions on this have been posed to WINK-TV by The Paradise Progressive and this report will be updated if a response is received.)

To date the only forum involving all candidates of both parties was one online hosted by the Florida Citizens Alliance, a non-profit conservative organization advocating for a return to basic education. The entire 1 hour, 20 minute discussion can be viewed on YouTube.

The Paradise Progressive hosted two text-only debates between the Democratic candidates on Coronavirus and the Southwest Florida economy on April 13 and April 17.

During the 2018 congressional campaign the Southwest Florida League of Women Voters issued a debate invitation to Democratic candidate David Holden and incumbent Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, setting a date of Sept. 17. However, Rooney replied that he had no availability on that date or any in the future and that all his positions were known. Despite a letter from Holden directly to Rooney and complaints to local media, no debate ever took place.

The full text of the Democratic candidates’ letter:

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing this letter on behalf of the Lee and Collier County Democratic Parties, and Congressional candidates for Florida Congressional District 19 Cindy Banyai and David Holden. We urge the local media to host a Democratic primary candidate forum. Some local news outlets have already hosted a Republican primary debate, giving the candidates ample time to express their views and platforms.

Despite several requests from the candidates and the county parties, no local news outlets have attempted to put together a Democratic primary candidate forum. Florida’s 19th district is a Republican-leaning district and the lack of interest in the Democratic primaries appears to be a direct attempt to maintain the status quo.

We strongly believe that the constituents in our district deserve to hear from all candidates equally, regardless of political affiliations. Especially now during this national pandemic, constituents are relying on media to cover politics. Unlike normal years when candidates have the opportunities to be out in the district campaigning, meeting voters face-to-face, our candidates have had to take to unconventional methods of campaigning.

Many constituents rely on their local news sources to stay up to date with their political candidates and provide an unbiased view. The fact that Republican candidates have been able to reach these viewers and the Democratic candidates have not been afforded the same opportunities by local news stations is shameful.

We are hoping that this letter spurs the news outlets to do the right thing and reach out to the Lee and Collier County Democratic Parties, Cindy Banyai, and David Holden about scheduling the democratic primary candidate forums.

Sincerely,

Dr. Cindy Banyai

David Holden

Annisa Karim, Chair of Democratic Party of Collier County

Gabriele Spuckers, Chair of Democratic Party of Lee County

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banyai appeals, Holden goes virtual, and a revolution in Naples: SWFL’s State of Play today

03-20-20 Banyai petition appealCindy Banyai appeals to Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the petition deadline.     (Image: @SWFLMom2020)

 March 20, 2020 by David Silverberg

Monday, March 23 marks the deadline for turning in petitions to get on the August primary ballot—unless Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the Florida Division of Elections say it ain’t so.

That’s what 19th Congressional District Democratic candidate Cindy Banyai is hoping. She says candidates deserve an extension of the deadline because the Coronavirus crisis has made face-to-face petition gathering and door-to-door campaigning impossible.

But Banyai isn’t alone. In a March 18 letter to DeSantis, her appeal for a delay was joined by Gabriele Spuckes, chair of the Lee County Democratic Party and five other Florida Democratic congressional candidates: Adam Christensen of Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, Allen Ellison of the 17th, Kimberly Walker of the 12th, and Sakinah Lehtola and Christine Olivo, both of the 24th.

Banyai also made her appeal in a 4-second video on Twitter, in which she said directly to DeSantis: “Postpone the ballot petitions. We deserve a shot.” Adding in the letter, “we must take action to keep our election fair and balanced and to ensure the health and safety of the citizens of Florida.”

Under Florida election rules, by March 23 a candidate for federal office must submit petitions equal to 1 percent of a congressional district’s voting population, which comes to 5,052 signatures in the 19th Congressional District, or pay $10,044, the equivalent of 4 percent of a US representative’s salary.

As of this writing, Banyai told The Paradise Progressive that she had not heard back from the governor’s office or the Division of Elections and noted a new wrinkle: “I will add that the local supervisors of elections [offices] are closed. So we can’t even submit the petitions if we wanted to.”

Holden goes virtual

David Holden, the other Democrat seeking the 19th Congressional District’s seat, put his entire campaign on a digital footing and announced on March 12 that he was suspending face-to-face campaigning.

David Holden town hall portrait 2 3-21-18
David Holden

“To be clear,” he emphasized, “we are continuing our campaign, just with an abundance of caution.”

For Holden, going virtual means holding town halls, Qs&As and fundraising events by digital means. (A Holden virtual town hall meeting is scheduled for this evening, according to his campaign Facebook page.)

Most importantly, Holden announced that he was suspending petition collection but seeking donations to meet the $10,044 filing fee.

“Together we will get through this,” he vowed.

Allison Sardinas, Holden’s campaign manager, added further details.

“The technicalities of [going virtual] are several,” she pointed out in an e-mail. “One, our organizers are now focused on creating digital content and phone banking for various virtual events. We’re setting up town halls and virtual fundraisers as well as expanding out lists and digital presence.

“This also means that our staff meetings are held via Zoom and we skype into call time with David instead of providing call sheets for him in person. We’re also moving our house parties into the digital realm and fully utilizing the features [next generation platforms have] to offer to maximize contributions to our campaign.”

According to Sardinas, the Holden campaign is also focusing on turning out the vote and preparing for the possibility of a vote-by-mail-only election in November. Preparing a digital volunteer force now should serve the campaign later.

Republican response

With Coronavirus shutting down all face-to-face campaigning, one Republican congressional candidate dropped out of the race and one announced suspension of his campaign (tantamount to dropping out altogether), both yesterday, March 19.

Ford O’Connell, the bombastic Fox News pundit, announced the end of his campaign in a statement to followers.

William Figlesthaler, the Naples urologist, similarly issued a statement. However, Figlesthaler’s suspension was interesting because he had already begun running television commercials. Also, his was the highest financed campaign of all the 19th District candidates, thanks to a $410,000 loan from the candidate.


Commentary: We won’t have Figlesthaler’s urinal screens to pee on any more!


Figlesthaler’s suspension leaves State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) as the best-financed candidate. Eagle hasn’t made any announcements regarding his campaign but has been frequently tweeting his support for President Trump despite the Coronavirus pandemic and the financial crash.

Analysis: Revolution in Naples City

On Election Day, Tuesday, March 17, the entire elected leadership of the City of Naples was voted out, with Teresa Heitman winning as mayor along with a completely new slate of city council members.

The election was non-partisan and there were many local issues that decided it. Nonetheless, Southwest Florida residents could see in this result a rising discontent and demand for complete change. If it’s so strong in a place as conservative and set in its ways as Naples, it just may be bigger in the region, the state and the country.

The blue wave could in fact turn out to be a blue tsunami.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Updated: O’Connell, Holden lead in 4th quarter fundraising in 19th Congressional District

Feb. 1, 2020 by David Silverberg

Updated, 5:30 pm with Cindy Banyai statement and corrected individual contribution totals.

12-12-19 O'Connell cropped
Ford O’Connell

Republican Ford O’Connell and Democrat David Holden led their respective fields in 4th quarter 2019 fundraising for the congressional seat being vacated by outgoing Rep. Francis Rooney, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Among the eight Republicans in the race, O’Connell, a conservative media pundit and outspoken Trumper, brought in $310,205 in total receipts.

Holden, facing fellow Democrat Cindy Banyai, raised $103,078.04 in the same period. Banyai raised $13,207.96.

Holden headshot light jacket 3-7-18
David Holden

Banyai issued a statement saying she was “determined to run a campaign for the people of Southwest Florida.” She pointed out that with only half a quarter of formal fundraising, she raised over $13,000 last quarter from 218 individual donations, with an average contribution amount of $37.

Having sworn off large corporate contributions and loans, Banyai stated she was relying on voter contributions.

10-19-19 Cindy Banyai
Cindy Banyai

“Campaigns should not be bought and sold by people at the top of our economic system,” she stated. “With most of the country sitting in the middle and lower economic classes, these are the people that need representation. And who better to represent them than one of them?

On the Republican side, after O’Connell, Republican fundraising totals were: Dan Severson, $107,531.14; Randy Henderson, $68,391.74; and Heather Fitzenhagen, $31,550. Totals for Darren Aquino, Dane Eagle, William Figlesthaler, and Byron Donalds had not yet been posted as of this writing.

No totals were available for Independent Antonio Dumornay.

Of all the candidates, David Holden had the largest disbursements, spending $33,720.28. Severson spent the most of all the Republicans, laying out $4,362.57.

O’Connell’s money mainly came from a $200,000 loan. He received $110,205 in individual contributions. Holden’s campaign took out a $45,000 loan and he received $58,078.04 in individual contributions.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Democratic candidates pledge support for primary winner

01-15-20-holden-and-banyai.jpgDavid Holden and Cindy Banyai are introduced by Collier County Democratic Chair Annisa Karim.       (Photo: Author)

Jan. 16, 2020 by David Silverberg

Congressional candidates Cindy Banyai and David Holden pledged last night to support whoever is the winner of the Democratic Party’s primary on August 18.

Both are running for Congress in the 19th Congressional District whose seat is being vacated by Republican Rep. Francis Rooney.

The two shared the stage for the first time at the Collier County Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus meeting at the Party’s headquarters in Naples.

The event gave both an opportunity to introduce themselves to voters in a non-debate forum.

Banyai characterized herself as a mother and small business owner concerned about “our water, our health and our community” with a priority on “clean water, jobs and access to transportation.”

She recounted that when her daughter was stricken with a rare blood disease, she found herself fighting with insurance companies to cover her care and characterized US healthcare as “this absolutely and ludicrously broken system,” which she said she would work to fix.

On environmental issues, she said that people in Southwest Florida felt betrayed by the government that over the past eight years had done nothing to clean or protect the environment and she pledged to hold polluters accountable. When asked about specific measures to take as opposed to further studies of red tide and other water issues, however, Banyai was vague in naming actions that could be taken.

Noting that she had once worked as a professional prize fighter, she said, “I know that when it comes to being tough in Congress, I know that although I may be young, and although I may be a woman, I know I will be the one that goes toe to toe with the toughest opponent to fight for the people of Southwest Florida.”

David Holden, who ran for the same seat in 2018, focused on defeating President Donald Trump and his agenda. Decrying the “abject collapse of Republican leadership” and its traditional values and priorities, Holden argued that Democrats “will not win by disguising who we are.”

Recounting a TV interview, he recalled being asked if he could work with President Trump. “I said, ‘I’ll work with the president when the president’s right.’ Fortunately, they didn’t ask me for any examples.”

He said that if Republican strongholds like Kentucky and Alabama could elect Democrats, then so could Florida. “This state is ready to become Democratic again,” he said. “There are enough Democrats, independents and a little sliver of sane Republicans and if we can get them to the polls we can win.”

Lee County, he said, “is the trump card of Florida’s Republican Party, the only county in the state with a population of over 500,000 that’s still red” and it’s the backstop in the presidential campaign.

“We have neglected vast parts of Lee County,” he argued. “Those are folks who used to vote for Democrats, when Democrats talked to them about the things they were concerned about.”

People, he said are concerned about their safety, their future, their children and their homes. He called for giving people affordable healthcare and “a standard of living that respects their human dignity” as well as good jobs as opposed to the low-wage jobs that are being generated now. He called for investing in people and building a community that helps them meet their needs. In contrast, he said, this year Republican candidates in Southwest Florida are offering nothing but abject worship of Trump.

Holden said he has already raised $100,000 and he was investing the money in staff for a vigorous campaign that will emphasize grassroots organizing and turning out voters. He intends to double the $600,000 he raised in his 2018 race. He also noted that he had been endorsed by Todd Truax, his opponent in the 2018 primary.

“We’re investing in people here to help us get out message out, to identify our voters and to make sure they vote” he said. “And if they vote for me that means they’ll vote for the Democratic nominee for president and we’ll both win,”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

State of Play: Byron Donalds enters contest for Rooney’s seat; Holden, Fitzenhagen launch campaigns

01-06-20 Trump and DonaldsByron Donalds embraces President Donald Trump at a 2019 awards ceremony in South Carolina.       (Byron Donalds campaign video)

Jan. 6, 2020 by David Silverberg

01-06-20 Byron Donalds
Byron Donalds

The 19th Congressional District has an eleventh declared candidate today as State Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee) announced in a campaign video that he will be running for the seat currently held by Rep. Francis Rooney.

This makes eight Republicans vying for the seat.

Donalds, long a self-described conservative, is running on a pro-Trump platform.

“I am everything the fake news media tells you doesn’t exist: a strong, Trump-supporting, gun-owning, liberty-loving, pro-life, politically incorrect black man,” he says in the video.

Donalds, 41, born in Brooklyn, NY and now a resident of Naples, has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2016. He describes himself as a businessman.

He attended Florida A&M University and graduated Florida State University with a bachelor of science degree. He’s married to Erika Donalds, a vocal public education critic, and has three children. The rural 80th District covers parts of eastern Collier and Hendry counties.

Donalds first ran for Congress in the 19th District in 2012 when he was defeated in a five-way Republican primary by Trey Radel. In 2016 he defeated Joe Davidow in the 80th District Republican primary, which he won with 64.3 percent of the vote, putting him in the seat he holds now.  In 2018, he defeated Democrat Jennifer Boddicker and Independent Dustin Lapolla in the general election, with 62.1 percent of 61,019 votes cast.

In his video, Donalds starts with a past drug bust that he says prompted him to turn his life around. “As a young man I was arrested for drug possession and theft. I knew I had to get my life together—and through the grace of God, I did,” he says of the undated event.

In a slap at gun control measures passed by the Florida legislature in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, Donalds states in his video: “When my own party caved to the liberals on your Second Amendment rights, I fought them—and will again.”

He also states that “I believe in the Constitution, the wall and that Socialism is another name for disaster” and he says, “Make no mistake, I will stand with the president against these impeachment radicals who trample our Constitution and paralyze our country with their dangerous lies.”

As of noon today, Donalds’ candidacy was not yet registered with the Federal Election Commission.


Campaign launches

This week two congressional candidates will officially launch their campaigns.

On Friday, Jan. 10, Democrat David Holden will hold his official campaign launch with a rally at Fleischman Park in Naples, from 4 to 7 pm, followed the next day by a second event in Fort Myers at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater from 10 am to 12:30 pm.

On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-78-Fort Myers) will hold her campaign kickoff event at the Society restaurant in the Bell Tower mall in Fort Myers from 5 to 7 pm.

 

 

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Holden on second Congressional run: “We’re starting where we finished last time…”

David Holden town hall portrait 2 3-21-18David Holden addresses a town hall meeting on March 21, 2018.    (Photo: Author)

Nov. 23, 2019 by David Silverberg

David Holden is hoping the second time will be the charm.

The former financial adviser who ran last year as a Democrat for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, is going to give it another try. Last week he officially filed as a candidate for the 2020 election under the official campaign committee designation, David Holden for Florida 2020.

Last year he was defeated by incumbent Republican Rep. Francis Rooney.

This time, he says, it’s going to be different.

“I’m thrilled to announce my second campaign for the U.S. House,” Holden told The Paradise Progressive in an e-mail statement. “It’s an honor to run for public office and to be considered to represent the people of Southwest Florida.”

This year the political landscape is radically different; Rooney is retiring. Both the Republican and Democratic fields are up for grabs in Southwest Florida. It’s a presidential election year when interest and turnout is high—and Republican disillusionment with President Donald Trump may be deeper and more pervasive than during the midterms.

But most of all, Holden has the lessons of his past campaign under his belt.

“We’re starting where we finished last time, with strong relationships across the district,” he told The Paradise Progressive in an interview.

When he started campaigning in 2017 Holden was largely unknown both to District 19 Democrats and the general voting population. He had to build a campaign organization from scratch and raise money without an established network. (Full disclosure: This author was his earliest volunteer and served as full-time Communications Director).

Ultimately, though, the Holden campaign set a number of precedents for Southwest Florida and the 19th District. It was the first time since the district’s formation in 2010 that a Democratic candidate raised a credible amount of campaign cash ($575,987.16); the first time a Democrat used television advertising; and the first time more than one candidate competed for the Democratic Party nomination. Also, it was the first time that local Democrats ran for all the offices on the ballot.

In the 2018 election cycle, the Holden campaign had to build its infrastructure and personnel as it went along. This time, says Holden, all the infrastructure is in place at the outset. He has hired a chief operating officer and human resources director, in contrast to the 2018 campaign, which went through three different campaign managers and competing organization charts.

At various times during the 2018 campaign Holden served as campaign manager, something he realizes was a mistake.

“This time I’ll just be the candidate,” he says. He’ll leave administrative, communications and management tasks to others. This campaign, he vows, will have clear lines of communication and a strong organization chart.

In 2018 the field operation was mainly staffed by student volunteers. They were bright and energetic and very effective but the campaign suffered when nearly all of them went back to school in September. This time, Holden is investing heavily in field operations and will have a full-time field director.

The campaign will also be building on its past progress in identifying and reaching non-party affiliated voters. That effort will be intensified, along with greater outreach to Hispanic voters.

“There are lots of votes left to be harvested,” he notes.

Fundraising will also be different and Holden is hopeful it will be more effective. This time he wil build on the networks and donors he established the last time and he has honed his fundraising skills. In contrast to 2018, where fundraising ramped up slowly as the campaign went along, this time, he says, “we’ll raise a significant amount in the first four weeks.”

Indeed, in its first official day of fundraising, Thursday, Nov. 21, the campaign brought in $27,700. It has another $15,000 pledged to come in shortly.

Complying with campaign regulations is complex and difficult. In contrast to 2018, the campaign’s money will be administered by a campaign finance director from the outset and overseen by a compliance professional. “That takes pressure off the senior staff,” he points out.

In 2018 there were numerous campaign volunteers but the mechanism to oversee, train and assign them developed over time. This time, says Holden, those functions will be in place from the start so that the volunteer operation will be robust and quick-reacting. Also, this time he wants to make sure volunteers are fully trained and get the support they need to be more effective from the moment they start working.

The last campaign was headquartered in Naples. In this campaign, vows Holden, he will be spending more time in Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Lee County generally where 75 percent of the district’s voters reside.

Who is David Holden?

Last year was the first time many Southwest Floridians made the acquaintance of Holden, a 60-year-old originally from White Plains, NY.

Holden had some political experience. In the late 1980s and until 1995 he was active in Democratic politics in White Plains, rising from district leader to chairman of the Democratic City Committee and successfully turning a conservative Republican area blue.

His commitment to liberal causes was instilled by his parents who were active in the civil rights and peace movements of the 1950s and 60s. He majored in political science at Temple University, in Philadelphia, Penn., where he graduated cum laude in 1981. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University in 2009.

Professionally, Holden worked in a variety of companies including a graphic arts studio and his own marketing, branding and communications firm in White Plains. In Naples, he and his wife Streeter partnered in the Holden Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, a position he left after the election. This time he is working as a full-time candidate from the outset.

His passion, though, aside from politics, is in non-profit health and social support agencies like the California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies, a non-profit that pioneered mental health best practices, where he served for a time as deputy director. He’s chairing the Collier Chapter of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida and is a member of the Hazelden Betty Ford Florida Council. He’s also taking a master class offered by the Greater Naples Leadership  in non-profit administration and management.

After a decade of spending vacation time in Naples, Holden and Streeter moved to Florida full time in 2015, so they had plenty of time to settle in and build their practice—then came the shock of the 2016 election.

Reverberations and response

“What we experienced on Election Day was for me as unforeseen and unimaginable as anything I have experienced in my lifetime,” Holden recalled in 2017. “It was in a very real sense the overthrow of our governing norms.”

Jolted by Donald Trump’s victory, Holden decided to run in the 19th District. “We’re seeing, around the country and the world, that progressives and rationalists are not going quietly into that good night,” he said at the outset of the campaign. “There’s a will to fight and I have it as well.”

Holden started small, with participation in events and rallies. With time, he matured as a candidate. At first tentative, he gained confidence in his public appearances. He was strongest in town hall meetings, taking questions from voters and listening to their concerns. He was articulate and had good command of the issues. Initially, he tried to juggle his job with his campaigning but ultimately committed himself to campaigning full time. And he threw himself into raising the kind of money that a serious race entailed, building an effective fundraising network in the process.

Holden had an unexpected primary challenger in Todd Truax, a senior care manager. The two engaged in several debates and Holden credibly held his own each time. But the true test of his efforts came on primary day, Aug. 28, 2018, which he won with a crushing 67.9 percent of the 35,922 Democratic votes cast.

The primary victory, however, did not translate into ultimate success. With 339,607 votes cast, Holden lost the general election to Francis Rooney by 62.3 percent to 37.7 percent.

Holden is determined to learn the lessons and avoid past mistakes this time.

It’s also a presidential election year, which makes for a different calculus. “With a strong national candidate we could win the state,” he says.

“I’m more energized than last time,” he vows. “We’re going to run our own kind of race.”

Liberty lives in light

©2019 by David Silverberg