Stefanik stomps Donalds in contest for third slot in Republican congressional leadership

Rep. Elise Stefanik. (Illustration: Donkey Hotey/Wikimedia Commons)

Nov. 15, 2022 by David Silverberg

Today Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-21-NY), the sitting chair of the House Republican Conference, crushed a challenge by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) to take her seat by a vote of 144 to 44.

The House Republican Conference is the primary caucus and forum for communicating the Party’s message among Republican representatives. It also hosts the caucus’ meetings and is the third highest position in the House Republican hierarchy.

Donalds was the candidate of the House Freedom Caucus, an extreme, conservative, invitation-only group of Republican members.

Today’s vote was taken by the Republican members of the House who are organizing their caucus for the 118th Congress that takes office in January. While some members recommended that the vote be postponed until all House races were decided, sitting members chose to proceed anyway.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23-Calif.) was endorsed for the position of Speaker of the House by a vote of 188 to 31 against challenger Rep. Andy Biggs (R-5-Ariz.). However, since the Speaker is considered leader of the entire House, the Speaker’s election takes a vote of the entire 435-member chamber when the new Congress takes office in January. The winner will need 218 votes.

By a voice vote, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-1-La.) won election as House Majority Leader, the highest position in the Republican caucus.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-6-Minn.), chief of the Republican campaign team was elected House majority whip, the second highest position in the leadership.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Jim Huff, Congress and the courage to be civil

A new kind of Republican challenger is taking on Rep. Byron Donalds in the 19th Congressional District primary this August

Jim Huff on the job with the US Army Corps of Engineers. (Photo: Jim Huff for Congress campaign)

July 8, 2022 by David Silverberg

These days it takes courage to simply be civil.

It takes even more courage to run for public office and do it in a civilized way—a way that respects voters of all persuasions, avoids insults and hyperbole and relies on reason, rationality and professionalism.

And it takes enormous courage to do this as a Republican in Southwest Florida in a primary race against a sitting congressman who exploits fear and paranoia and extremism.

But Jim Huff has that courage.

Huff is seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island. He is on the primary ballot against Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.).

His candidacy, he says, was the result of a culmination of factors. “In particular, I’d watch TV interviews with politicians where they were acting like they were in a high school drama. They were calling out other parties and calling out other people for their mistakes but never providing a solution.”

As he states on his website, “We cannot afford to sit back and watch any longer. We have to stand up for our freedoms before everything America stands for is squandered away.”

Huff, 38 and single, is a civil engineer who has been working on infrastructure and water-related projects in Florida his entire professional life. No candidate of any party has come to the political arena with the depth of technical knowledge and environmental expertise that Huff possesses. He not only understands the district, he understands what flows through it and what lies beneath it—literally.

Candidate Jim Huff. (Photo: Author)

In person he’s friendly, open and polite. He’s clearly new to politics but that also means he lacks the slick veneer of career politicians. Instead his bearing is that of a professional and his federal service has given him the experience of accomplishing a mission when assigned it.  When he disagrees on a point, it he does so rationally and civilly.

Until deciding to run for the 19th Congressional District seat Huff was a civil engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). As such he was prevented from engaging in political activity under the Hatch Act, a 1939 law prohibiting federal employees from partisan political activity. It meant he had to leave the Corps and couldn’t build a campaign before becoming a candidate in April so he has a lot of catching up to do.

He’s been doing that by walking through the neighborhoods he hopes to represent. “When I go door to door you get people who don’t want politicians,” he said in an interview with The Paradise Progressive. “Even within the Republican Party people tell me that we need to get back to core values and our politicians are out of touch.”

Huff is not intimidated by Donalds’ fundraising and incumbent advantages, observing: “Among the people I’ve talked to, the loyalty to Donalds is maybe 10 percent.”

He also thinks he can beat Donalds, saying: “If I didn’t think I could beat him I wouldn’t have spent $10,440 to get on the ballot.”

Florida transplant

Jim Huff during his days as an Eagle Scout. (Photo: Campaign)

Huff is originally from rural New Jersey, where he grew up, participating in the Boy Scouts and rising to the rank of Eagle Scout. He started working as a farm hand at age 15 and continued working while going to school before heading to Florida to attend the University of Florida at age 18. He didn’t stay there but during the summers began working for USACE starting as a laborer in the Field Exploration Unit.

He ultimately earned an associate degree in engineering from Santa Fe Community College and stayed with USACE, which brought him to Florida to work on Corps projects like the Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, the Kissimmee River restoration, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Picayune State Forest restoration.

His USACE experience prompted him to complete a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida Gulf Coast University, where he graduated magna cum laude. He also became involved in the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers where he oversaw community cleanup programs and reached out to students with STEM programs (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

When he decided to run, he went in all the way: he quit his job, sold his house and dedicated himself to campaigning full time.

Mission-oriented

Huff with FGCU students at an Army Corps of Engineers project in Florida. (Photo: Campaign)

Huff’s engineering experience gave him an appreciation for the role of the federal government and especially federal funding in managing Southwest Florida’s environment and infrastructure. It was another factor in his decision to run.

When there’s money available, “Why shouldn’t we take that opportunity to establish pilot programs and studies?” he asks. Since federal funding is not for private businesses but for schools like FGCU’s Water School or USACE infrastructure improvement, there’s no reason not to get it. “If we don’t start with these pilot programs, how can we ever get there?” he asks.

He is particularly scornful of a bill Donalds co-sponsored, Protecting Local Communities from Harmful Algal Blooms Act (House Resolution 74), “I feel it was a cop-out,” he says. “It was a great title but it doesn’t do what the title says; it’s a reactive measure and will cost the taxpayers more money without providing improvement.”

That bill is in keeping with a past Donalds practice of introducing bills with elaborate titles but then never following up with content that actually does something. “In my personal opinion, that is a lot of what our politicians have turned to for popularity for their next election without following through,” Huff observes.

Huff was also disturbed by Donalds’ refusal to seek federal funding for district needs. “It gave me the realization of how much we’re losing in this community.” If elected Huff is determined to get every penny the District is entitled to receive from the federal government.

Republicanism and rationality

Huff is a lifelong Republican and his positions reflect the Party’s traditional mainstream approach and attitudes.

He says he has three main priorities as a candidate.

The first is to make politicians accountable. A key element of this is imposing term limits on members of Congress and enforcing existing ethics rules, which he thinks have been too laxly pursued. “If we allow people to get a pass, then essentially we do not have any rules,” he argues.

The second is to fight for clean water and bringing it to Southwest Florida either through ongoing efforts or new initiatives.

The third is to maintain a sense of professionalism. As he puts it: “I won’t say that’s something that every politician has lost but I will say as a whole, especially the ones we see on TV, we have lost our professionalism.” Examples of unprofessionalism he cites include House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) ripping up a copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech and Trump refusing to attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“You can go to any politician going on national TV and berating another politician or another party for their beliefs. So when I say ‘professionalism’ what I honestly think it is, is ‘know when to bite your tongue,’” he says.

On other issues, he supports law enforcement, a strong military, meeting veterans’ needs, reforming the immigration system and securing the borders, upholding free enterprise and protecting individual liberties.

Although a Second Amendment and lawful carrying supporter and an AR-15 gun owner, Huff is not a member of the National Rifle Association. As he puts it, he believes in taking steps in a reasonable direction to protect Americans without their having to surrender their rights to gun ownership.

Huff says properly administered “red flag” laws that enable law enforcement to take guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others can protect the public. “It’s not a popular cause,” he acknowledges. “But it’s also something to consider, with education, that our own state has already implemented. Speaking to law enforcement, and also people who have gone through the red flag process themselves, it is effective [used] in the right way. Is it a bit of a nuisance for some? Yes, if falsely accused, sure, but in general we know it is helping our imperfect system.”

Huff is also avoiding being tied to corporate or industry political action committees (PACs).

This is based on personal experience. Like all candidates, Huff has received questionnaires from PACs asking about his positions in exchange for their support. To get PAC endorsements and money, a candidate has to accept the PAC’s position on issues.

“There’s always a line at the bottom with a pledge to support the PAC’s position,” he recounts. “The pledge ties my hands throughout my term. Even for the right cause, it’s too vague. I don’t want to open this up. I believe that interest groups are the problem.”

He explains: “My focus is to speak to the people. We need to support ourselves as a community first, and then take those principles and ideals to the federal level, not take our special interest groups and then feed that down the opposite direction.”

Huff has encountered numerous questions and challenges about his position on Trump’s contention that he won the 2020 election and the events of January 6, 2021, an event he missed watching on television in real time because he was working.

He stated his position in a Facebook post on June 23.

“To this day, I do not believe Donald Trump broke a law because it is likely he would have been arrested or indicted already and tried in a court of law for the law(s) he broke,” he wrote.  “HOWEVER, I KNOW LAWS WERE BROKEN THAT DAY AND THOSE COMMITTING THE CRIMES MUST BE HELD RESPONSIBLE.  I do believe Trump’s actions contributed to the mistaken expectations of those who did storm the capitol, that Trump would continue being President after their actions.  I support the prosecution of every individual found guilty of breaking the law that day, not to the fullest extent but to a reasonable extent given each’s specific circumstances.  You know what that’s called? Justice.”

He’s also skeptical of the proceedings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, which he calls bad politics and more reality TV than a hearing. “I believe we all deserve the truth of details as to what happened factually, without bias to one point of view or the other,” he stated.

Restoring civility

One of the most voluntary acts a person can commit in life is running for public office. No one is forced to do it and the immediate reaction of most people to a new candidate is discouragement: the incumbent is always too entrenched, the cost of campaigning is always too high, the opponent’s coffers are always too full, the odds of winning are always too long.

So it takes courage to take that step and declare a candidacy, whether for dog catcher or school board or Congress.

Whether one agrees with Huff or not, he is undeniably showing courage by stepping forward against an incumbent who plays to the lowest common denominator.

He says that people have told him that even if he doesn’t win the Aug. 23 primary, he will be well positioned to run again “next time.” However, he says, “There is no plan for a next time. It’s always been a plan to get in, make an improvement and then go back to my career as an engineer, as a normal citizen. And I do believe a lot of people recognize if we had more people running for those reasons we would have a more effective government.”

Whatever one thinks of Huff’s candidacy, in a Southwest Florida district whose past Republican primary election campaigns have been awash in gunplay and insults and dirty tricks, it is definitely refreshing to have as a candidate someone who is a professional and a civil engineer—in every sense of the word “civil.”

Liberty lives in light

©2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

A very partisan non-partisan election: The race for Naples City Council

Naples City Councilman Ray Christman. (Photo: Campaign)

Jan. 11, 2022 by David Silverberg

Voters in the City of Naples, Fla., will get an early preview of the nation’s electoral battles on Feb. 1 when they go to the polls to select three at-large councilmembers, who will represent the entire city, rather than specific districts, for the next four years.

Despite the officially non-partisan nature of the election, Councilmember Ray Christman is being targeted by rightist Republicans for defeat. The reason? At one time, they say, he was a registered Democrat, although he is now officially a non-party affiliated voter. The same goes for candidate Ian Rudnick.

Candidates do not have party affiliations listed on the ballots.

But this year’s partisan twist introduces the possibility that an otherwise open and welcoming Naples could see imposition of a far-right (for Naples) conservative agenda. Traditionally, municipal elections focus on very local issues like development, the environment, quality of life and economic growth.

It’s a test of the movement of Trumpism into the grassroots and its outcome could have an impact beyond just the Naples City limits.

There are 19,115 residents in the city, according to the 2020 Census. Of those, 16,497 are active voters eligible to cast ballots, according to the Collier County Supervisor of Elections.

In addition to Christman, Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison is seeking re-election. The other candidates for the three open seats are Rudnick, a retired Naples Police Force officer; Beth Petrunoff, a retired General Electric executive; and newcomer John Dugan.

Ian Rudnick (Photo: Campaign)

Under the city’s rules, the top vote getters will take the open seats. All candidates presented their positions at a forum hosted by the Gulf Shore Association of Condominiums, on Thursday, Jan. 6, covered by The Naples Daily News.

The target

Christman told the forum that his priorities were the same as they had been when he first ran: protecting the environment; managing development; sustaining quality of life; and maintaining a transparent, ethical and responsible government. He pledged to be open, communicative and represent the entire community. He expands on these positions in detail on his campaign website, Ray Christman for Naples City Council.

Christman has extensive credentials for municipal government. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. He attended Florida State University and received a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and headed Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, then served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Commerce.

He’s been deeply involved in technological development and environmental conservation, from his first job at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to his 2014 efforts to pass the Florida Water and Land Legacy Act, which now provides state funding for water and land protection. He worked to adopt a new City Ethics Code after an ethics commission was created by referendum. 

Amidst the COVID pandemic, he helped establish a city-based vaccination site to inoculate residents against the virus.

The targeters

John Dugan (Photo: Campaign)

Leading the charge against Christman is candidate John Dugan and a political action committee, Collier County Citizens Values Political Action Committee (CCCVPAC).

“Be informed, all Republican voters residing in the city need to vote to replace Raymond Christman,” states the CCCVPAC website. “He is a sitting City Councilor that was a registered Democrat until recently when [he] changed to be registered Non-Party Affiliated (not Republican). State election reports show his residence made donations to Democratic candidates running for Governor named Andrew Gillum and running for State Representative in District 105 Javier Estevez.”

Dugan was an at-large member of CCCVPAC before resigning on Aug. 31 to run for the City Council.

The PAC is currently headed by Russell Tuff, former chairman of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee. As CCCVPAC reveals on its website, Tuff has provided paid services to Dugan and to Michelle McLeod, a candidate for the Collier County Commission and a city council member ousted in the 2020 city election.

CCCVPAC says it has rated all the candidates based on “values” but in fact only Dugan filled out its questionnaire and received its only rating. The PAC recommends that voters vote only for Dugan.

“Only one candidate, John Dugan, completed our questionnaire,” states CCCVPAC. “Apparently, the other candidates did not want to be rated on our values. Since that is the case, although you can vote for up to three candidates, we are recommending you vote for only John Dugan, who wasn’t afraid to state his values up front and have them communicated to the community.”

When it comes to his platform, on his campaign website Dugan opposes COVID precautions like mask and vaccination mandates.

He states that “Growth is inevitable” and “When we take a No Growth position, we do not prepare adequately for projects that happen without proper planning which creates acrimony and problems that could have been avoided. We have a fiscal responsibility to allow redevelopment which increases city revenue while maintaining tax rates.” He also supports water infrastructure improvements and beach renourishment.

Dugan is originally from Boston, Mass., and graduated from Northeastern University with a major in accounting and a degree in business administration. He spent his career at Accenture, a management and technology consulting company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, retiring as a partner in 2009.

CCCVPAC calls Dugan “a rock-solid Republican and not a ‘Party Switcher.’ He was instrumental in fundraising and getting out the vote for the Republican party during the last election cycle.”

Commentary: A very partisan non-partisan election

On March 17, 2020 Naples City voters threw out the mayor and three City Council members in a startling sweep of the city’s government.

In addition to the city’s purely local issues, the election results, coming on the same day as the Florida presidential preference primary, were viewed by some observers as a repudiation of President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic response and voter unhappiness with a very conservative status quo in the city.

CCCVPAC doesn’t see it that way. As it puts it on its website: “It is clear that the last City Council election could have had a better result for the Republican Party.  Two Non-Party Affiliated candidates were elected.  The final election vote tally showed 3,751 Republican did not vote – 44% of the City Republicans did not vote.  By Party, Republicans were the largest no shows on election day by more than 2000 votes!” [sic, capitalization and syntax theirs].

The fact, though, is that the Naples City Council election is supposed to be non-partisan. Prior to Trump’s hyper-politicization of all of American life this was largely the way business was conducted. While there might be differences of opinion on various decisions or courses of action, party labels were generally irrelevant to the conduct of the city’s business.

That has now changed and Dugan and CCCVPAC are kicking the partisanship up a notch. Their chief complaints against Christman and Rudnick have nothing to do with those candidates’ actual positions on city matters—their unforgiveable sin is that they were once registered Democrats and don’t march in lockstep to conservative Republican decrees. This betrays an intolerance of diverse viewpoints and an effort to impose a single, rigid ideological approach on the city’s government. It’s undemocratic—with a small “d.”

It’s also not the way to govern a city whose chief challenges have to do with local matters like infrastructure maintenance, water and environmental quality, growth management and tourist hospitality.

This election will have consequences on a variety of fronts.

For those Naples City residents who don’t want to see the imposition of a rightist ideology on the city and want to keep the Council focused on real issues affecting all its residents, the choice is very clear: Ray Christman should be returned to office and John Dugan should be defeated.

This will be an election decided by mobilization of supporters on each side.

Having an election in February is often very tough anywhere in the country where winter is usually at its worst. But in Naples the weather should be pleasantly warm and the sunshine abundant. Voting by mail eliminates the possibility of contamination by Omicron and even at the polling place, social distance and a mask make a difference. Besides, most sensible Naples voters have already gotten vaccinations and boosters for their protection.

As of Jan. 10, 680 mail-in ballots had already been cast, representing 4.12 percent of the electorate.

In-person voting will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 1. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is 5 pm on Saturday, Jan. 22.

Early voting begins Wednesday, Jan. 26 and runs until Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 am to 6 pm daily at two locations: the Norris Center in Cambier Park, 755 8th Avenue South, and the Supervisor of Elections Office at 3750 Enterprise Ave.

There will be drop-box locations for mail-in ballots at the Supervisor of Elections Office and the Norris Center (locations above), and at the Collier County Supervisor of Elections satellite office at 2335 Orange Blossom Drive.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate!

Rep.-Elect Donalds joins Republican imitation of ‘The Squad’

The original 2018 photo that gave rise to the term ‘The Squad.’ From left to right: Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Photo: AOC/Instagram)

Dec. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg

11:00 am corrected Donalds affiliation.

Rep.-Elect Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) has joined a Republican effort to imitate and counter the four progressive Democratic members of Congress informally known as “The Squad.”

Seven newly-elected Republican House members are calling themselves “The Freedom Force.” According to Donalds, they reject the kind of progressive programs and policies advocated by The Squad.

Rep.-Elect Byron Donalds announces his membership in ‘The Freedom Force’ on Fox News. (Image: Fox News)

Americans, Donalds stated in an interview on Fox News, “just want to have opportunities to succeed. They don’t want people in Washington telling them how they’re going to go about doing that. They want the freedom to choose for themselves and I’m here to fight for that and that’s what the Freedom Force is here to do.” He said the group was necessary because “the Left has people out there every single day pushing this narrative that America is some worse off country, that we need a heavy hand from government, that you have to have this ultra-progressive left-wing policies.”

“The Freedom Force is nothing more than a media opportunity for a bunch of freshman representatives who will otherwise not have the ability to do anything in Congress as part of the minority party,” Cindy Banyai, Democratic candidate for Congress in the recent election, pointed out in an e-mail to The Paradise Progressive. “The squad was branded as such because of their massive popularity and ability to make change. They didn’t name themselves that to seem important, like this group. These pathetic copycats can’t even come up with their own concept to counter this powerful group of effective women that they maligned to get elected.”

In alphabetical order, the members of The Squad are: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) (D-14-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-5-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-7-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-13-Mich.).

The members of The Freedom Force are: Reps.-Elect Stephanie Bice (R-5-Okla.); Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.); Carlos Giménez (R-26-Fla.); Nicole Malliotakis (R-11-NY); Maria Elvira Salazar (R-27-Fla.); Victoria Spartz (R-20-Ind.); and Michelle Steel (R-48-Calif.).

Asked about The Freedom Force by NBC News, Omar said: “I mean it sounds ridiculous to me. I think they think they’re in high school. We’re in Congress.”

Donalds attacked AOC in mailers and campaign literature during his run for Congress, said Banyai. He likened Banyai to AOC and tried to “scare his donors and fan the flames of fear of socialism.”

The Squad was informally named in 2018 after the four members were elected to the House of Representatives and had their picture taken while attending a progressive orientation session. AOC titled it “Squad” and shared it on Instagram and created the hashtag #Squadgoals. It then became the focus of media attention because all the members had broken barriers and represented new faces of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

In an interview on CBS This Morning on July 17, 2018 Pressley explained the genesis of The Squad. Their intention was “not just about dismantling, but what we’re intentional about is building and fostering,” she said. “Anyone who is committed to the work of building a more equitable and just world is a part of the squad.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Rep. Rooney congratulates Biden, calls for supporting the President-Elect and coming together

Nov. 7, 2020 by David Silverberg

Rep. Francis Rooney

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), is the first Southwest Florida Republican to congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden on his electoral victory, issuing the following statement on his Facebook page at 5:39 pm:

“Congratulations to President-elect Biden on a successful and hard fought campaign. All Americans need to come together in supporting President- elect Biden. Our nation will only be successful if the new administration is. We must work together to enact bipartisan legislation and solve the problems which our country faces – that is how our system of government works. We have more that unite us than divide us, and now that the heat of battle has drawn to a close we must come together for the betterment of all our citizens.”

Liberty lives in light

(c) 2020 by David Silverberg

Ivanka Trump comes to Southwest Florida selling faltering campaign

Financial record of Trump campaign makes for questionable investment.

Ivanka Trump promoting Goya beans. (Photo: Ivanka Trump Twitter)

Oct. 20, 2020 by David Silverberg

In a last-ditch effort to sway voters in what has in the past been a reliably Republican area, the election campaign of President Donald Trump is deploying First Daughter Ivanka Trump to Southwest Florida to shore up support and raise money.

A “Make America Great Again” rally that is sure to be a COVID superspreader event has now been officially scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 1:00 pm at Top Rocker Field at Six Bends in Fort Myers.

Ivanka Trump is also reportedly going to speak at a private, invitation-only fundraising event in Naples, according to a number of local news outlets. The unconfirmed location is reported to be at the Old Collier Golf Club. The cost of attending is reportedly $15,000 per person and $100,000 per table. However, this event cannot be confirmed through official campaign websites or statements.

The First Daughter’s blitz comes as the polling site FiveThirtyEight.com gives Democratic candidate Joe Biden a 69 percent chance of carrying Florida with 51.1 percent of the popular vote, based on multiple polls. In 2016, Trump carried Florida with 49 percent of the vote, or a margin of 112,911 votes.

The Trump campaign money record

As exciting as having such a distinguished celebrity in Naples might be, those who are in the $15,000 per plate class might want to ask themselves before they fork over the cash: What am I donating to?

(And also: What can possibly be served for lunch that’s worth $15,000?)

From its outset the Trump campaign has been plagued by money woes. In a Sept. 7, 2020 New York Times article, “How Trump’s Billion-Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage,” reporters Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman detailed a campaign of undisciplined spending that burned through hundreds of millions of dollars.

It also featured chaotic purchasing, erratic hiring and disorganized messaging all in the service of an unrestrained and volatile candidate.

Much of this can be laid at the feet of Brad Parscale, Trump’s initial campaign manager. It was Parscale who rode in a chauffeured car and flew on private planes, who decided to spend money on questionably effective advertising, including heavy investment in the Washington, DC media market primarily so that Trump could see his ads on local TV.

The article quotes Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist who runs a small pro-Trump super political action committee, as saying: “If you spend $800 million and you’re 10 points behind, I think you’ve got to answer the question ‘What was the game plan?’” He accused Parscale of spending “like a drunken sailor,” and noted “I think a lot of money was spent when voters weren’t paying attention.”

Parscale has since been replaced by Bill Stepien, who has taken a lower profile and tightened spending. However, the campaign’s cash chaos has not ceased.

Another exposé of Trump campaign spending also appeared in September in The Atlantic, titled “Trump Is Running His Campaign Like He Ran His Businesses.” The article by David Graham noted, “The president is again profiting handsomely at the expense of those trusting enough to give him money.”

Graham wrote: “The Trump 2020 campaign seems to be running on the same principle as many of the president’s commercial endeavors: Trump gets richer, while other people’s money gets lit on fire. This was how some of the president’s real-estate ventures and casinos operated, and so it’s unsurprising that it’s how he’s chosen to run his campaign—and the country.”

Along those lines, in July the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that seeks to advance “democracy through law,” filed an 82-page complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that the campaign violated campaign finance law by illegally spending $170 million in disguised spending by “laundering the funds” through a variety of companies.

Commentary: The Shark Tank for real

Making a donation to a political campaign is a lot like investing in a business. As a donor you’re essentially investing in an outcome. You may be driven by ideological urges rather than profit, but many of the principles of effective donating and investing are the same.

Any investor knows the drill for evaluating a business pitch (and the public can see a version of it on the TV program Shark Tank): You look at the company’s business plan, its leadership and products, past performance if the company’s established or the founders’ past record if it’s a startup. You check references and media coverage. You examine the market and the needs and you try to peer out to the future to determine its prospects. Then you go through the spreadsheets to find errors or erroneous assumptions. In the end you make a bet—or not.

If the Trump presidency and campaign was a business investment opportunity, what would a potential investor see?

The company’s chief executive officer (CEO) is erratic, irascible, uncontrolled and uncontrollable but still overly controlling. He’s diseased and seemingly deranged. He’s been responsible for six previous bankruptcies and was cut off from established credit sources. He and his companies may be $1 billion in debt to unknown creditors. The company’s products are badly flawed and simply not working and demand for them has cratered. Its performance (the economy) has collapsed from bad management. An outside force (a pandemic) could have been mitigated or controlled early on but wasn’t because of poor assumptions and delusional reactions. The references are terrible, with former executives uniformly denouncing and exposing the CEO’s shortcomings and crimes. Other than the media controlled or co-opted by the CEO, coverage is uniformly and unrelentingly bad. The market is trending against the company with all market research indicating its competitor is going to dominate. The spreadsheets are unavailable or those provided are of very questionable reliability. The likely prospect is that a bankruptcy declaration will come Nov. 3.

This is the company that Ivanka Trump will be coming to Naples to sell on Wednesday.

People who can afford a $15,000 per plate meal did not qualify for sitting at that kind of table by being stupid.

But for those who buy in: Enjoy lunch.

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

RINO or lemming? The Republican dilemma

A rhinoceros. (Photo: World Wildlife Fund)

Aug. 28, 2020 by David Silverberg

The rhinoceros—rhino for short—is a mighty beast.

This author knows; he has actually seen one in the wild. It was an extremely rare, black African rhino and it was immense. It appeared to be about eight feet long and about six feet high at the shoulder and must have weighed a ton. It seemed like a creature from another time, more dinosaur than mammal. It was armor plated and with a horn that looked like it could pierce a steel plate. If disturbed or annoyed it could charge and do really serious damage. Our guides and those of us in a Range Rover on the South African brush treated it with extreme caution and respect.

The same respect is not shown for the RINOs of Southwest Florida or anywhere else in America for that matter. These animals, of course, are Republicans in Name Only.

It’s a derisive term leveled at Republicans who supposedly show less than sufficient ardor for Republicanism, or this year, in this political climate, complete and total Trumpism.

In the Republican primary race in the 19th Congressional District of Southwest Florida, the term RINO was thrown around with abandon. No candidate was sufficiently Trumpy not to get hit with it at least once and no candidate burned with a fiercer hatred of RINOs than whichever one had purchased the TV ad of the moment or posted the latest video.

But if a non-Trump believing, independent-thinking, traditional conservative Republican is a RINO nowadays, what animal best represents a true-believing Trumper?

The answer may lie, in of all places, the Republican Party platform and the Republican National Convention.

The platform—or non-platform

There’s a general idea abroad these days that party platforms don’t matter. That they’re a lot of trivial geekish verbiage that doesn’t mean anything that no one reads.

For those who think only in TV images and 280-character tweets that may be true. But in fact party platforms are important. It’s not just that they set out in detail where a party stands on numerous issues. They synthesize the different strains and factions in a party and bring them together in a single document so everyone can know where the party stands.

One of the most important roles of a party platform is informing down-ballot candidates of the party’s positions. A candidate running for local dogcatcher on a party ticket can go to the party platform and align his or her platform on issues that might not otherwise be present in a local race. If the dogcatcher candidate is asked where he or she stands on international trade restraints—and this kind of thing happens! —he or she has a ready answer.

Party platforms can be extremely important on a purely policy basis too and tiny word changes can have big consequences. In 2016 Delegate Diana Denman proposed language in the Republican Party platform calling on the United States to provide “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine, which was fighting off a Russian invasion. The United States had provided Ukraine with equipment and training short of weaponry and some Republicans felt more needed to be done. However, two Trump campaign operatives insisted that the language be watered down to “appropriate assistance” on orders from the Trump campaign’s New York headquarters. With the change of three words, Ukraine was abandoned.

This year’s Democratic Party platform runs 91 pages and covers dozens of topics.

By contrast this year the Republican National Committee abandoned all efforts to formulate a current Party platform and instead adopted a one-page resolution that ignores all the events since 2016 and simply continues the Party’s positions from that time.

The document sounds like it was dictated by Trump and then dressed up in legalese. The establishing clauses (the “whereases”) state that whereas the convention is scaled down; the Party didn’t want a small contingent formulating the platform without broader Party input (actually the reverse of the way it really works—but someone would have to know how it worked in the first place to understand that); had the Party convened as usual it “would  have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration”—no need for discussion there; the media won’t report it accurately anyway; and since the Party “enthusiastically supports President Trump;” basically, there’s no need for a platform.

Therefore, states the resolution, “the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda;” it “will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention;” it calls on the media to report this all accurately and any attempt to amend the 2016 platform or change the procedures to make changes “will be ruled out of order.”

The resolution can be summed up as “Whatever Donald Trump wants, we give him”—and it conveniently ignores every national issue that has arisen since 2016 including the coronavirus pandemic and response, the economic crash, civil unrest and the quest for racial justice.

It’s really quite a remarkable American document and not in a good way. It abandons all Party mechanisms, legislative processes, popular input and surrenders to the whim of a single man. It’s a mind-boggling screed worthy of Adolf Hitler’s Reichstag or Kim Jung Un’s Supreme People’s Assembly.

Cult of personality

Kimberly Guilfoyle gives her all for Trump at the Republican National Convention. (Photo: Reuters)

On June 12, 2017, at a time when the country’s borders were in chaos due to Trump’s mistakes, his Cabinet secretaries gathered in the White House Cabinet Room and went around the room lavishly praising him and thanking him for the opportunity to serve in his administration. It reduced accomplished men and women and proud civil servants to slavish sycophants and craven toadies.

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people,” said then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, 49 days before he resigned.

There has never been a let up in Trump’s hunger for adulation. The same kind of obedience and flattery that was expected of Trump’s first round of Cabinet-level officials was on display at the Republican National Convention—and if anything, it was even more over the top.

Natalie Harp, a cancer survivor, praised Trump: “You have used your strength to make America strong again. Sacrificed the life you built to make America proud again. And risked everything to make America safe again.”

“Mr. President, lead the way. Millions in our American family believe in this path to destiny. Guide us to that horizon!” said Sean Parnell, a Republican congressional candidate from Pennsylvania.

No one, though, was more lavish and extravagant than Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump campaign aide and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend. “President Trump believes in you!” she shrieked. “He emancipates and lifts you up to live your American Dream! You are capable! You are qualified! You are powerful! And you have the ability to choose your life, and determine your destiny!”

It’s reminiscent of the praise heaped on Adolf Hitler: “He is a pathfinder for those who devoted themselves to his idea, a man who conquered the hearts of his comrades in the midst of battle and never released them,” as Joseph Goebbels put it in one speech.

So if the rhino represents the free-thinking, independent, individualistic, traditional conservative Republican, what totemic animal best represents the obedient, adoring, bedazzled Trumper?

The choice

A lemming. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a glass case in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, there is a preserved, round, furry mammal about the size of a small Florida marsh rabbit or a large guinea pig, which it closely resembles. It lives in Arctic climes where it’s preyed upon so much it’s been characterized as the Arctic tundra’s “lunch box.” Its scientific name is Lemmus Lemmus. It’s known generically as a lemming.

Whether deserved or not, the lemming is famous for periodically gathering in large herds and migrating. Supposedly lemmings surmount all obstacles and ford streams, mindlessly moving on until they reach a cliff or the sea and unthinkingly and suicidally charge ahead to their deaths.

The danger of blindly following Donald J. Trump over a cliff to disaster is not new. In fact, it has a distinctly Southwest Floridian perspective.

“I’m definitely at variance with some of the people in the district who would probably follow Donald Trump off the Grand Canyon rim,” said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) when he announced his retirement on Oct. 19, 2019.

The time has come when Donald Trump and his herd of lemmings have reached their cliff. Despite all the fantasies spun at the Republican convention Trump has utterly failed the nation, which is far sicker, poorer and weaker than when he took office.

Real Republicans can see this and they’re finding new ways to express their dissent. Long-time Republican political professionals have formed the fiercely anti-Trump Lincoln Project, which says it consists of “dedicated Americans defending democracy.” Republican Voters Against Trump state on their website that they are “a coalition of Republicans, former Republicans, conservatives, and former Trump voters who can’t support Trump for president this fall.” Veterans Against Trump declare that “We do not believe Donald Trump has the values or character to be our Commander-In-Chief and do not support him.” Former Republican governors John Kasich of Ohio and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, former representative Susan Molinari and businesswoman Meg Whitman attacked Trump when they addressed the Democratic National Convention.

These RINOs can see the catastrophe that another four years of Donald Trump would bring and they’re doing something to prevent it. They’re awake, angry and charging.

Perhaps the term RINO doesn’t really mean Republican In Name Only—nowadays it really means Really Independent Nasty Opponent.

But whatever it means, the conclusion is inescapable: better to be a RINO than a lemming.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

Battle of the underdogs: Banyai vs. Donalds and SWFL’s state of play today

Cindy Banyai
Byron Donalds

Aug. 21, 2020 by David Silverberg

The winners of the Florida 19th Congressional District primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 18 were both underdogs in their respective primary races—but that’s where their similarities end.

On the Democratic side, when the race began, Cindy Banyai was the new girl in town, starting from scratch—people didn’t even know how to pronounce her name. (Ban-YAY, with a hard A.) She was a first time candidate up against David Holden who had run for Congress in 2018. As a result of that run, Holden was well known in Collier County, had established fundraising networks, name recognition and a base of supporters. Banyai never raised his kind of campaign money–$85,548.50 in receipts as of July 31, compared to Holden’s $229,760.19, according to the Federal Election Commission.

On the Republican side, Byron Donalds, although already a sitting state legislator, entered a crowded field relatively late in the game. He was up against two wealthy, largely self-funded candidates in Casey Askar and William Figlesthaler, both of whom bought lots of TV air time. In his fellow state Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral) he was facing an established political figure who spent his whole adulthood in politics and served as majority leader in the state legislature. In an additional advantage, Eagle was based in Cape Coral, the demographic center of gravity of the 19th District.

Although both Banyai and Donalds were underdogs, each responded to their underdog status in different ways.

Banyai simply worked extremely hard all the time from the moment she declared her candidacy in September, before Rep. Francis Rooney announced his retirement. She sent out a constant stream of tweets, pronouncements, statements and a direct mail flyer. She wrote op-eds that appeared on the environment and Social Security. She held weekly virtual coffees and town halls. She energetically built coalitions and networks, vigorously reached out to other candidates and actively sought their endorsements. In at least one instance her outreach included Republicans. With traditional in-person campaigning curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the constant digital campaigning stood her in good stead.

Lee County Democratic results (Lee County Election Office)

Collier County Democratic results (Collier County Election Office)

Donalds came by his underdog status because of the amount of money arrayed against him. He could not outraise or provide personal funds that could match Askar or Figlesthaler. But Donalds compensated by pledging his ideological soul to the conservative cause and winning the endorsement of organizations like Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the National Rifle Association. Super political action committees (PACs) that could spend unlimited amounts supporting his candidacy made up the difference.

Lee County Republican election results (Lee County Election Office)
Collier County election results (Collier County Elections Office)

It did not hurt him that, as he himself said: “I’m everything the fake news media says doesn’t exist: a Donald Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment black man.” As one of the very few African American conservative Trumpers (another one, Herman Cain, died of COVID after attending a Trump rally unmasked), Donalds had the potential to inoculate the Trump right from charges of racism, making him extremely valuable to the Trumpist cause. Of all the candidates endorsed by Club for Growth, he was the only African American.

The outside PAC funding ultimately made the difference for Donalds, allowing him to narrow the broadcast advertising gap.

Although Eagle received a higher vote total than Donalds in Lee County, late on election night he conceded to Donalds, as did Figlesthaler. As of this writing, nothing public has been heard from Casey Askar or the other Republican candidates, although none of their vote totals came close to Donalds’.

State of play

As the general election battle begins, both candidates have their strengths and weaknesses.

Having won her primary, Banyai will now be receiving new endorsements (including one from David Holden, which should be coming since both candidates pledged to actively support the winner). Local Democratic Party organizations should be offering support, volunteer efforts and funding. If local media do their due diligence, they will acknowledge her campaign (in the past local media outlets have just ignored Democrats) and she may receive national media attention. Her fundraising should be enhanced and new sources will likely open up to her. This year, unlike 2018 when Rep. Rooney simply refused to debate and local organizations passively accepted his disdain, there may be actual formal debates where she’ll have a chance to explain her platform and gain a wider audience.

But in addition to her proven hard work and initiative, Banyai has the advantage of identifying with a popular candidate at the head of the ticket and a groundswell of urgency and desperation in the electorate that goes well beyond party divides. In Joe Biden, Banyai connects to a figure who has wide acceptance, as demonstrated by his consistently high polling data. There also appears to be increasing support from traditional Republicans repulsed by Donald Trump.  What is more, the entire state of Florida is showing increasing signs of moving in a Democratic direction.

On the Republican side, having won his primary, Donalds will now receive the support of the local Republican Party organizations. Presumably the PACs that helped elect him will continue their support, although they may figure that having won his nomination in a safely Republican district they’re able to ignore the 19th and direct their resources elsewhere.

Most of all, Donalds has the advantage of the numbers on the ground, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats. As of this writing, in Lee County there were 202,553 registered Republicans, 129,245 Democrats, and 140,377 others including non-party affiliates (NPAs) and independents. (In Florida there is an Independent Party, so NPAs are not the same as independents.) In Collier County there are 112,044 registered Republicans, 54,380 Democrats, and 53,374 others.

The conventional wisdom is that people reflexively vote their registered party affiliation. In the past, that would be true in Southwest Florida. But now is not the past.

What’s new and different

This year, it would be unwise for anyone to blithely assume that the Republican primary is tantamount to the election in the 19th Congressional District.

There are several factors that make this an unusual year. One is the coronavirus pandemic. It continues to threaten lives, especially given the elderly population in Southwest Florida—and school-age children are at risk even as the state presses parents to send them to school. The national and state responses have been incredibly botched and even delusional. Another wave of infections may get worse. Voters have taken notice of the government response at the federal and state levels and people are frustrated, fearful and angry.

The local economy has crashed and the prospects for a quick recovery are dim. Instead, the economic effects of the botched pandemic response will continue to roll out in the days ahead, with more business closings and layoffs. With international trade disrupted by Trump administration trade wars and new border obstacles to international travel, the traditional influx of foreign visitors, snowbirds and investors is curtailed, further depressing an extremely seasonal economy built on tourism, hospitality and travel.

In the past, mail-in voting was the Republican secret sauce to winning local elections as people voted from the comfort of their second homes in the Midwest. Add to that the fact that the coronavirus has made mail-in voting essential for worried voters. In this primary election the majority of ballots were cast by mail but these were mailed out and returned before Trump and his Postmaster General Louis DeJoy attacked and disrupted the mail system. Having crippled the mails, Trump may have also crippled Republican mail-in balloting in Southwest Florida. Republicans may not be able to count on those absentee ballots to make up their majority despite the Florida state Republican party’s efforts to blur—literally—Trump’s attacks.

There is also always the possibility that natural disasters like hurricanes, red tide or algal blooms could occur in Southwest Florida but their political impacts are impossible to measure before the event.

But the single biggest political factor in the 19th Congressional District race right now is Donald Trump.

In Trump’s shadow

The 2020 election is a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump—at both the national and local levels.

As a progressive Biden Democrat, Banyai offers an alternative to the current status quo. She is now the underdog in the race and the rebel against the existing order, both locally and nationally. Her task in getting elected is difficult but relatively simple: she has to win over enough NPAs, never-Trumpers and newly disaffected Republicans to form a majority coalition along with the Democrats who will support her. (To see a more detailed discussion of this topic see the article: “Passion and Pragmatism: The Democratic path to victory.”) It does not hurt that she’s a suburban mom with school-age children who can relate directly to mothers of all ages.

But the situation is much more complex for Donalds. Although the Casey Askar campaign played up Donalds’ various apostasies—voting for Barack Obama, saying nice things about Mitt Romney, having impure non-Trumpist thoughts in the dark mists of the past—Donalds loudly and emphatically proclaimed his total, undying loyalty to Trump.

He’s now the top dog in the race and he’s joined at the hip to Trump. He and the Club for Growth Action PAC played up his absolute, unvarying ideological obedience during his primary bid. In Southwest Florida that is certainly an advantage with the committed Trumpers who decided the Republican primary—but even so he barely squeaked by.

His absolute Trumpism means that he buys the bad with the good—in addition to the credits he gets for fealty, he also stands with Trump’s lying, meanness, cruelty, indifference, narcissism, corruption, irrationality, ineptitude and, to use Trump’s own words, “hatred, prejudice and rage.”

It also means he stands with Trump policies and many of these are inimical to Southwest Florida, like destroying Social Security and trying to take away everyone’s healthcare; restricting border crossings and travel and hampering local tourism and investment; despoiling and polluting the environment; drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico; attacking immigrants and immigration, which hurts local businesses and agriculture; and excusing and justifying the sheer incompetence of Trump’s and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ coronavirus response—or perhaps better put—non-response.

Donalds has to defend and promote all this. He has no “Etch-A-Sketch” option, as one of Mitt Romney’s aides once so memorably put it. He can’t shake a toy and make all his previous statements disappear into the past and dissolve from people’s memories. Some memories are indeed short, especially among Southwest Florida’s elders, but others have memories like elephants.

Mercifully, both Banyai and Donalds say they want to conduct a clean, non-personal, dignified race that focuses on policy and Southwest Florida and appeals to our better natures. We’ll see how long that lasts, especially if the polling narrows and the PACs and consultants have their way in pushing the kind of negative campaigning and advertising that fills their coffers.

So by a sheer accident of nature, history and coincidence, sleepy, swampy, sweltering Southwest Florida this year is home to one of the most interesting congressional races in the country. It pits a totally ideologically orthodox conservative African American Trumper with a checkered personal past against a progressive Biden Democratic white suburban mom, who also happens to be a PhD and former professional prizefighter.

It would be fun to see the two of them go three rounds in a boxing ring. But short of that, we’ll have to settle for a political bout.

Voters have a stark and definitive choice. Don’t prejudge the outcome before the final bell.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

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