Who’s Running in the Congressional District 19 Democratic Party Primary?

Election 2020

Collier County voters live in one of two congressional districts: 19 or 25. Find your district here.

In my last post, Who’s Running in the Congressional District 19 Republican Party Primary?, I shared what I learned from researching the nine Republican candidates. In this post, I look at the two Democratic candidates. The winners of the two primaries will go on to face each other and a Write-In candidate in November.

Only registered District 19 Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary.

In How I Research Candidates and 6 Things to Consider When Evaluating Candidates, I explain my approach to writing these posts. In addition, I asked the candidates to complete a questionnaire and included edited (for brevity) versions of some of their answers and links to the completed questionnaires below.

I close this post with a look at the money that is financing the campaigns, links to online candidate forums, and some suggested next steps.


Cindy Banyai

Cindy Banyai’s website describes her as a “mom and a business owner” who “wants to bring the voice of SW Floridians to speak truth to power.”

Cindy Banyai
Cindy Banyai

Banyai was born and raised in Michigan. She earned undergraduate degrees in international relations and psychology from Michigan State University and Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan.

She has worked in the field of organization development since 2000, and in 2006 formed Banyai Evaluation and Consulting, LLC. Since 2019, she is also Vice President of Strategy and Operations at the Institute of Organization Development and a member of the adjunct faculty in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Her website’s tagline is “Community: Happy, Healthy & Connected.” It lists “Policies” in 15 areas, the first four of which are Environment; Health; Transportation; and Veterans. It also says, “To amplify the effects of our work, I am aligning my policy approaches to the global Sustainable Development Goals.

Candidate questionnaire responses

What diversity of perspective, attributes, knowledge or skills would you bring to the office that differentiates you or that the other candidates don’t have?

”I have a depth of knowledge and expertise in evaluation and policy design, an expertise unmatched in the field. I also bring the perspective of the mother of a critically ill child facing a deeply flawed health care system, and the perspective of someone who has been an immigrant outside of the US.”

What three things do you want to accomplish if elected?

  1. “Protect our waters by funding research of red tide and blue-green algae and holding polluters accountable;”
  2. “Reforming healthcare to make it affordable and accessible to everyone, cutting out profiteering through cost-setting, creating a national program with decentralized administration and sliding scale user fees for participation focusing on preventative care;” and
  3. “Creating a Southwest Florida where the sun shines on everyone, ensuring all legislation is considered through an equity lens and economic recovery programs focus on helping everyday people get back on their feet from the economic crisis and small businesses can thrive.”

She did not respond when asked to name one current public policy position she disagrees with.

The most important thing voters should know about her before making their decision in this race is that “I have the technical expertise to design government policy and the desire to serve the public with inclusive processes for input.”

Press coverage

In Her Own Words

David Holden

David Holden is “husband of Streeter, lifelong community activist, @Kennedy School alum, and Naples resident,” according to his Twitter page.

David Holden
David Holden

Holden was born and raised in New York. He has a bachelor’s degree from Temple University in political science and a master’s of public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He previously ran for Congress in 2016 and won the Democratic primary that year, but lost to Francis Rooney in the general election. He has served as Vice President – Board of Directors of Duffy Health Care in Hyannis, MA, as Deputy Director of the California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies, and as President of the United Way of Greater White Plains, NY. As Chair of the White Plains, NY, Democratic Party, he had direct experience in managing successful campaigns, building a strong party infrastructure, and turning a historically Red community Blue.

After experiencing many difficulties in his early adult life, according to his website, he “had a spiritual awakening that has become the foundation of his life.”

Holden and his wife relocated to Southwest Florida in 2015, and he was a partner with her in their Holden Wealth Management Group. He retired from the business in 2019 and now serves as founding Chair of the Collier County Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida Chapter, as an active graduate of the Greater Naples Leadership program, and as a member of the Florida council of Hazelden Betty Ford.

His website’s tagline is “Building a New American Dream.” It addresses nine ”Priorities”, the first four of which are Healthcare; Housing Affordability; Medicare & Social Security; and Environment and Clean Water.

Candidate questionnaire responses

What diversity of perspective, attributes, knowledge or skills would you bring to the office that differentiates you or that the other candidates don’t have?

”My experience as a partner in a financial planning practice and someone involved in community service at every level. Seventeen years ago I received medical care in the early days of my recovery from alcoholism, when I had no health insurance. I founded the Collier County Chapter of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. I understand that the core of leadership is the ability to listen deeply and to act wisely and courageously on behalf of others.”

What three things do you want to accomplish if elected?

  1. “Strengthen the Affordable Care Act and move America to universal healthcare for all;”
  2. “Adapt to and mediate climate change by implementing much of the Evergreen Action Plan first put forth by Washington Governor Jay Inslee;” and
  3. “Implement real reform of the criminal justice system, policing policies and priorities, and truly addressing racial inequities in our society,” including “robust investments at the Federal level in mental health and substance abuse treatment, ending homelessness, and reducing domestic violence.”

A current public policy position he said he disagrees with is “the relentless efforts by the Trump Administration to overturn the Affordable Care Act, even in the midst of a pandemic….”

The most important thing voters should know about him before making their decision in this race is that “I am the only candidate committed to preserving and expanding Social Security and Medicare without raising the age of eligibility.”

Press coverage

In His Own Words

The Money

The District 19 race will be expensive. Of the 12 candidates, two – both Republicans – have loaned their campaigns in excess of a million dollars each.

Here’s what the two Democratic candidates reported in the most recent Federal Election Commission filings (June 30, 2020):

Holden’s average contribution was $487.16, excluding his own loans to the campaign. Banyai’s average contribution was $408.65; she made no loans to her campaign.

Online Candidate Forums

I highly recommend that you watch at least one of the recorded candidate forums. I learned a lot from observing how the candidates responded to questions: thoughtfully or in sound bites; rambling or concise; good grammar or bad. A forum is a good way to see multiple candidates at once. Be mindful of the political- or issue-orientation of the event hosts, and consider how that might influence both the questions and the responses.

The following forums are opportunities to watch both Banyai and Holden:

Next Steps

If you are a registered Democrat in District 19, it’s time to decide which of the two candidates to vote for in your party’s closed primary next month.

Determine what is most important to you when it comes to your representative in Congress. Then review the candidates’ websites and do more research, using the links and references included in this post.

If you have questions, reach out to the candidates directly via the contact information on their website. If they don’t respond to your satisfaction when they’re running for office, how responsive will they be if elected?

When you’ve done enough research to feel confident about your decisions, you are ready to vote!

For election dates and details about how, when and where to vote, visit www.colliervotes.com. And if you missed it, please read my post, Request a Vote-By-Mail Ballot Today.

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