Businessman Curt Clawson (R) won the Republican primary in the race for former Rep. Trey Radel's seat, taking 38 percent of the vote. State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto (R) took 26 percent, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel (R) took 25 percent, and aviation consultant Michael Dreikorn (R) took 11 percent. Clawson will be the favorite over public relations firm owner April Freeman (D) in the June 24 special election.
In his victory speech, Clawson called for party unity, while lamenting the negative nature of the race. "It was ambition over truth, ratings over legitimacy," Clawson said. "But we are past this. I took the arrows and I am past this. This is over, OK?" (Naples Daily News)
Clawson was endorsed by the State Tea Party Express, and his win is a victory for tea party groups and other "outsider" candidates. The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund released a statement saying the win "shows that voters are listening, and that the core principles of personal freedom, economic freedom and a debt-free future are winning issues." (release)
It is also encouraging for self-funding candidates, considering Clawson spent $2.65 million of his own money to overcome Benacquisto's and Kreegel's super PAC support. Clawson's "victory could be good news for the other Republican self-funders on the ballot this year, many of whom have primaries coming up: David Perdue, running in the crowded Georgia Senate field; Mark Jacobs, one of a handful of GOP Senate candidates in Iowa; and Mike McFadden, running in a competitive Senate primary in Minnesota. Like Clawson, all three are political neophytes using their wealth to beat their opponents on the air and build their profiles." (Politico)
Clawson: 26,857 (38 percent)
Benacquisto: 18,032 (26 percent)
Kreegel: 17,762 (25 percent
Dreikorn: 7,560 (11 percent)