August 15, 2012 at 10:56 am
By Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster and Aisling Swift, Naples Daily News
NAPLES — Trey Radel, a former Southwest Florida television and radio personality, was the surprise winner in Tuesday’s District 19 Congressional race, buoyed by an endorsement from outgoing Rep. Connie Mack.
“Everyone, we did it. We did it,” an excited Radel said to supporters at a party at the Trianon Hotel in Bonita Springs. “This is a very serious, serious moment, but we can be happy. We (still) have a lot of work to do.”
According to the state’s election website, with more than 74,000 votes counted, Radel had about 30 percent of the vote. He declared victory at about 8:25 p.m.
Chauncey Goss came in second in the district with about 21.5 percent.
Goss, 46, of Sanibel Island, was endorsed by Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president. Ryan was in Southwest Florida two weeks ago stumping for Goss.
Radel now heads to the November general election against Democrat Jim Roach, 60, of Cape Coral, a retired GM research engineer and decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and nonparty candidate Brandon M. Smith, 25, of Naples, a hotel software programmer.
The district is so heavily Republican that most political observers expect Tuesday night’s vote will decide who heads to congress to replace Mack, R-Fort Myers.
The newly drawn District 19 is diverse and includes the wealthiest and poorest voters, encompassing all of Lee County and coastal portions of Collier County, including Naples and Marco Island.
Goss, 46, of Sanibel Island, strode into Mastello Italian restaurant south of Fort Myers as a crowd of 60 supporters clapped, whistled and cheered. They hugged Goss and his three sons. Goss conceded around 8:45 p.m.
”We didn’t win, but I think we had a great campaign, certainly a campaign to be proud of,” Goss said to reporters afterward.
Goss, whose father, former CIA director Porter Goss, once held the seat, attributed the loss to dilution of votes among six GOP challengers.
“It’s a six-way primary and a lot of spit votes. That’s really what it comes down to,” he said, adding that he thought Ryan’s endorsement helped his campaign. “Paul is a huge positive in anyone’s life.”
Radel also likely received a bump because of his endorsements. Radel not only received an endorsement from the congressman, but also from former Sen. Connie Mack III, the congressman’s father. The former senator also was once Southwest Florida’s congressman.
Radel said he didn’t know how much weight those endorsements carried when voters went to the polls, but said he was grateful for the support of the Mack family.
Also losing to Radel were:
■ Byron Donalds, 33, a Naples commercial credit officer and Tea Party favorite.
■ State Rep. Paige Kreegel, 53, a Punta Gorda physician and farmer who has served in the Legislature for nearly eight years, the term limit.
■ Rep. Gary Aubuchon, 50, a Cape Coral builder and real estate agent who is in his sixth year on the Legislature.
■ Trailing the pack was Naples lawyer Joe Davidow, 28.
Aubuchon conceded around 8:30 p.m.
“We thought it was going to be close, and it was, but it wasn’t close for all of us,” Aubuchon said. “The rest of us were kind of packed together. I just didn’t see one candidate breaking that far ahead of the field. That was the surprise of the night.”
Aubuchon pulled just 9 percent of the vote in Collier County, where he finished fifth, and couldn’t break from the pack in Lee County, earning 17 percent.
With his term in the state Legislature set to end, Aubuchon said he will return full-time to running his company, Aubuchon Homes.
Kreegel wasn’t immediately commenting, his campaign supporters said.
Donalds stood in front of an emotional crowd of supporters at a Naples restaurant and thanked them for their support during the past few months.
”I’m not going anywhere,” Donalds said. “If I decide to run again, which I probably will, just know I have all your phone numbers and emails.”
As the night wound down, Radel chatted with family members and supporters. He said he was taking a moment to reflect on the night’s outcome before gearing up for another few months of campaigning.
“I feel like I have a new responsibility that sits on my shoulders,” Radel said. “People believe in (our) message.”