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)
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Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."
"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.