BREAKING NEWS: O’Connell drops out of race for Rooney’s seat; cites impact of Coronavirus

02-12-20 Ford O'Connell on Fox
Ford O’Connell

March 19, 2020 by David Silverberg

Republican Ford O’Connell has dropped his bid for Congress in the 19th Congressional District currently held by fellow Republican Rep. Francis Rooney.

He is the first candidate and the first Republican to withdraw from the race. There are now 11 candidates seeking the office: Eight Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent.

In a statement issued at 11:00 am this morning, the former Fox News pundit stated that he could not run the race he had planned due to the Coronavirus outbreak. He did not endorse any other candidate. He stated he was donating his remaining campaign funds to local charities but did not say if this included the $200,000 loan he made to his campaign committee.

O’Connell was a fierce defender of President Donald Trump.

His full statement, issued as an e-mail to supporters, follows below:

After much thought and careful consideration, it is with a heavy heart I announce that I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for the FL-19 U.S. congressional seat.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Lives are at stake. The time for action is now. As a result of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, we cannot run the type of campaign we wanted to run; one where we go to local events and meetings, schools and libraries, museums and restaurants, and speak to voters and hear about the issues that matter to them, where we get our message out face-to-face with citizens at the grassroots level through an exchange of ideas, having real conversations that matter, rather than in 30-second TV ads. Public safety is paramount, and an election where voters’ health may be endangered to run a campaign by, for, and of the people is not one in which I can in good conscience continue.

To that end, I have decided to donate a portion of my campaign funds to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida and to the American Red Cross to assure our friends and neighbors are taken care of during this difficult and uncertain time.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my fiancé, Sarah, my family, my dedicated campaign staff, my friends and supporters; to everyone I spoke with over the past several months who shared their story, their concerns, their humanity – to each and every one of you – thank you. I am humbled by your support and by your belief in me and in what we stand for.

We fought a good fight, and we should all be incredibly proud of that. Now, we turn our battle to a new horizon; one with much higher stakes and that will in the coming days and months impact us all. Stay safe. Stay strong. Together, there is nothing America can’t do. While this campaign has reached its end, know that I’m not done fighting for you, for Southwest Florida, and for our great nation.


Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg


Follow the money: Ford O’Connell’s finances and what they mean

02-12-20 Ford O'Connell on FoxFord O’Connell appearing on the Fox Business Network.

Feb. 12, 2020 by David Silverberg

The campaign of Republican congressional candidate Ford O’Connell raised $310,205 in the fourth quarter of 2019, the third-highest amount of funds of all candidates in the 19th Congressional District, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Of that amount, $200,000 came in a loan to the campaign made by the candidate.

The other $110,205 was made in 139 separate donations. However, of these donations, 60 or 43 percent, were made through Winred, a conservative, online, pass-through political action committee (PAC) based in Arlington, Va.

Winred describes itself on its website as “a conduit PAC coupled with proven fundraising technology. The advanced lead optimization and donation platform increases engagement and maximizes your fundraising by leveraging a conservative ecosystem in the millions.” Put another way, users from any location can donate to any Republican candidate online.

As a result, $74,875 of O’Connell’s contributions came from anonymous donors outside the district. Of his total contributions, $44,100 came from Florida and of that, only $25,600 from 16 donors came from within the 19th Congressional District and all of those were from Naples.

As of Jan. 31, O’Connell had spent $3,173.03 on his campaign, all of it with Winred.

Analysis: What it means

O’Connell came late to this party, only filing his candidacy with the FEC on Dec. 6. He hasn’t had much time to fundraise or organize his campaign.

However, in early January he hired Sean Kempton as deputy campaign manager. Kempton, a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, served on the 2018 campaign of Gov. Ron Desantis (R) and later in his administration. One presumes that this means O’Connell will be trying to build a grassroots field operation.

As demonstrated by his fundraising, O’Connell doesn’t appear to have a network of local donors, so he is using online means to raise funds nationally.

O’Connell told the political website Ballotpedia that his three goals in office are: fighting for President Trump; protecting the quality of life in Southwest Florida (as he put it: “Southwest Florida first!”); and “draining the swamp.”

Accordingly, O’Connell’s platform is one of straight Trumpism and doesn’t deviate or vary from the Trumpist line. He deprecates Democrats, wants to protect national sovereignty from illegal immigrants, and boasts of being a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.

The only way that O’Connell stands out from the other Trumper candidates in the 19th Congressional District to date is in the vehemence and volume of his Trumpism rather than its substance. O’Connell appears to be channeling his idol and adopting his campaign approach of personalizing his attacks, (“I have a feeling that some people might actually want to go back to Tallahassee rather than stay in this, what is going to be an epic dog fight,”—a shot at Dane Eagle), demonizing the opposition (“Democrats are the party of illegal immigration…”), and playing the apocalyptic paranoid card (“President Trump is our last hope for conservative governance for the foreseeable future in this country.”).

O’Connell’s attacks on immigration are ironic in light of his grandfather Henry Salvatori’s immigration from Italy to the United States, where he built a successful petroleum company, as well as the Irish origins of O’Connell’s name.

O’Connell’s only reference to a local issue is on his website where he pledges, “I will advocate and fight for the highest level of federal funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).” Otherwise, his issues are all national in scope.

Given that all his local donors were based in Naples, it appears that O’Connell doesn’t have any roots or organization in Fort Myers, Cape Coral or anywhere in Lee County.

Given the lateness of his entry, his lack of a ground game and his background in television punditry, it is most likely that O’Connell will hold his main fire until later in the season and then attempt a broadcast blitz, trying to overwhelm his opponents with television advertising. However, since broadcast purchasing can eat up a lot of money very fast he will have to do much better fundraising if he’s to have the resources to do that.

Substantively and from a policymaking stand point there’s nothing to distinguish O’Connell from the other Trumpers in the race. He has little local name recognition or roots in the community. He does have $200,000 worth of skin in the game—and it will be interesting to see what that can buy him in the 19th Congressional District.

Coming: Randy Henderson and the video that went viral

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

For the record: SWFL responses to Soleimani killing

Airstrike kills Iran's Quds force head, Iraqi PMU chiefIranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, killed in a US drone strike in Iraq this morning.

Tracking official statements and positions by candidates and sitting officials is important for an informed electorate, so this year The Paradise Progressive will attempt to report official statements by Southwest Florida candidates and incumbents when major events break, in addition to its usual coverage.

Jan. 3, 2019 by David Silverberg

These are the official statements in reaction to the US killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, as of noon today, expressed through Twitter or Facebook.

  • Of three SWFL incumbents, two made statements.
  • Of two Democratic candidates, one made a statement.
  • Of seven Republican candidates, three made statements.


Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.):

“Qassem Soleimani was an integral part of Iran’s terrorist regime and I applaud President Trump’s decisive action to bring him to justice. When I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, many of my brothers and sisters in arms were killed by Iranian explosives at the direction of Seleimani. America, and the world, are safer now that his reign of terror has ended.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.):

“Soleimani plotted international acts of terrorism & has the blood of Americans & our allies on his hands. As the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds force, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, who operated within Iran. Soleimani was responsible for numerous terrorist acts, instability in the region, & violence. I commend the Trump Admin for ridding the world of this evil man, and for taking the steps necessary to protect Americans and our allies from the terrorist threat posed by Iran.”

Democratic congressional candidate

Cindy Banyai:

This is a troubling escalation. Do we want to go to war with Iran? This does not seem to be sound #foreignpolicy.

Republican congressional candidates (in alphabetical order)

Dane Eagle

“This decisive military action deals a blow to our chief adversary in the Middle East and will certainly save American lives. Very proud of our President, and once again disappointed in the Fake News for trying to portray this as anything other than an extraordinary victory.”


Ford O’Connell

“Thank you President Trump for not letting attacks against Americans go unanswered. Thank you for keeping America safe.”


Dan Severson

“The United States has an incredible intelligence apparatus that works hand in hand with the greatest military on earth. We are so fortunate to have a Commander in Chief like Donald J. Trump who acts swiftly and proportionally. Soleimani killed over 600 Americans and was the leader of terrorism sponsored by Iran. This was a good day for the United States of America.”


Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg




State of Play: The ‘epic dog fight’ starts; Dumornay goes indie; and Rommel and Simmons stay out of the game

12-12-19 O'Connell and EliasCongressional candidate Ford O’Connell talks to NBC2’s Dave Elias.

Dec. 13, 2019 by David Silverberg

This was a busy week in the race for Florida’s 19th Congressional District seat.

The ‘epic dog fight’ on the right begins

Rhetoric on the right began heating up as Republican candidates started vying to out-Trump each other in the race for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.).

Ford O’Connell, a Fox News analyst and commentator, filed his candidacy on Dec. 6 and immediately began blasting Rooney and loudly announcing his allegiance to Trump.

“When Francis Rooney didn’t talk in lockstep with Donald Trump, he not only let down the president, he let down the district,” O’Connell told NBC2’s Dave Elias in a Dec. 11 interview.

As for Rooney’s stated openness to hearing the evidence and making an independent decision, O’Connell said: “That’s a disgrace frankly! When he does that, he’s playing the Democrats and the media game.”

O’Connell continued: “It’s not just your allegiance to the president. You have to understand, I have spent the last three-plus years fighting for Donald Trump in the national media.”

And, in true, personalized Trump style, O’Connell took a shot at State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral): “I have a feeling that some people might actually want to go back to Tallahassee rather than stay in this, what is going to be an epic dog fight.”

Eagle countered with a barrage of photos showing him with Trump and a tweet yesterday, Dec. 12, stating: “We need representatives in Congress that will work with @realDonaldTrump, not obstruct him.

12-12-19 Eagle and Trump
An undated campaign photo from State Rep. Dane Eagle showing him with President Donald Trump. The other person on the left is unidentified.

“For two years, the Democrat controlled House has done nothing but obstruct (now trying to impeach) him. I’ll be one of the strongest fighters for the President when I get to Washington!”

Commentary: It’s hard to avoid noting that only dogs engage in dog fights.

Dumornay goes indie

Antonio Dumornay never appeared to fit into the Republican primary race for Rooney’s seat. On Nov. 30, he switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent.

11-27-19 Dumornay
Antonio Dumornay

“The Republican Party was key to bringing slavery to an end, and also with Civil Rights Movement, a lot for Republicans were key factors in legislation being passed, because they were facing Jim Crow laws in the South put in place by the Democratic Party,” Dumornay told Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics in an article appearing on Dec. 10. “Those are the values of the Republican Party that many in the public don’t know about.”

Dumornay called for a “Grand New Party” on his campaign website. But he felt he couldn’t run in what is rapidly turning into a high-priced race. He told Ogles that he believes he’s the only candidate running who makes less than $30,000 per year.

“I saw a lack of focus on people in this community who make less than $60,000 a year and those are the ones most affected in their living situation by cost of living increases, the trade war and everything becoming more expensive,” he told Ogles. “I’m simply a 9-to-5 working man looking to make a difference for the average American.”

If he meets all the requirements, he will appear on the general election ballot next November.

Standing pat

In what is already a crowded field, those who decide to stand pat have as much impact as those who jump in.

This week State Rep. Bob Rommel (R-106-Naples) announced that he would not run for this office. That leaves him facing Democratic activist Sara McFadden in the race for the 106th District seat.

Also declining to get in the game is Peter Simmons, Republican mayor of Bonita Springs. Simmons told Florida Daily that while he’d received an enormous number of messages and e-mails and appeals to get in the race, he wasn’t going to do so.

“I am flattered beyond words to be held in such high regard by so many friends, activists, business men and women, donors, and political organizations, however, for something that was not on my radar screen a few months ago – after consideration I am announcing that I will not be seeking the Republican nomination for United States Congress,” he stated.

Liberty lives in light

© 2019 by David Silverberg