Updated 8/7/22 at 9:10 AM
Incumbent Republican Mario Diaz-Balart is running for election in new Congressional District 26. He’s being challenged by Darren Aquino of Naples. The winner will face Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo in November.
Fifty-five percent of Collier County’s voting age population live in District 26, which also includes part of Miami-Dade County. Find your district here.
Only registered Republicans who live in District 26 may vote in this closed primary. If you live in the district but are registered as Democrat, No Party Affiliation, or another party, this race will not be on your August ballot.
Darren Aquino, 62, moved to Naples from New York City in 2018. The television actor who played small roles in “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “The Sopranos” says his childhood struggles with polio and dyslexia led him to become an advocate for disabled people. He operates a small nonprofit — Advocates for Disabled Americans, Veterans, Police, Firemen and Families — whose mission is advocating for and defending the rights of the disabled.
Aquino ran unsuccessfully in Florida’s 19th congressional district Republican primary in 2020, finishing eighth with just more than 1% of the vote. He claimed he was the victim of election fraud, accusing Lee County officials of throwing out his votes. (Florida Politics, 8/19/20)
For more about Aquino as a candidate in the 2020 Republican primary, see Who’s running in the Congressional District 19 Republican Party primary?, Sparker’s Soapbox, 7/25/20
Aquino said the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. (Naples Daily News, 7/27/22)
Aquino’s Twitter profile includes hashtags for “MAGA 2022,” “Lincoln Republican,” “AmericaFirst,” “Conservative,” “NRA,” and “Florida Man” along with this prominentaly-placed tweet:
Aquino’s priorities are:
- Fighting for the forgotten — through his nonprofit Advocates for Disabled Americans, Veterans, Police, Fireman & Families (ADA VETs).
- Pro-America — supports a nationalized Patriot Test, in which American high-school students are required to pass a basic civics test that assesses American values, ideas, governmental-composition and history in order to graduate high school.
- Pro-Life — “Unfortunately, because of leftists and pro-death activists, babies are deprived of their right to have a chance at life.”
- Law and Order — “Now, more than ever, is it important to ensure every American citizens’ fundamental right to protect themselves. Assault rifle bans are pointless — criminals don’t follow laws!”
- Website — aquino4congress.com
- Twitter — @aquino4congress
- Facebook — Darren Aquino For Congress (no posts since 2020)
- Instagram — aquino4congress (no posts since 2020)
- Ballotpedia 2020 Candidate Survey (did not complete for 2022 campaign)
Aquino has been endorsed by PatriotParents.org.
Mario Diaz-Balart, 60, was born in Ft. Lauderdale and now lives in Miami. He studied Political Science at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Díaz-Balart was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002. Now serving his 11th consecutive term, he is the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation. He currently serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and three of its subcommittees.
Before his time in Congress, Diaz-Balart served in the Florida Legislature, in both the House and Senate chambers.
Diaz-Balart voted on Jan. 6 not to certify election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. He issued a statement condemning the violence of that day, but would not tell the Naples Daily News / The News-Press whether he thinks the 2020 election was legitimately won by President Joe Biden. (Naples Daily News, 7/27/22)
“Diaz-Balart passionately serves his constituents,” according to his website, “acting tirelessly in defense of individual rights and liberties, promoting economic prosperity, and supporting a robust national defense. He is well-known for his advocacy of human rights and democracy around the world, as well as for his staunch support of our global allies.”
His positions on policy issues include:
- Defense/National Security — “The federal government’s most important priority is to ‘provide for the common defense’ and ‘secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.’”
- Everglades Restoration — “The Everglades is a natural treasure and is one of the true ecological wonders of the world, but its existence is in jeopardy due to decades of abuse.”
- Fiscal Responsibility — “Congress must adhere to the principles of fiscal discipline….[It must] work to make [federal] programs more efficient, or simply terminate them…”
- Immigration — “We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to strengthen our border security, and we need to address the immigration issues inside our borders. One without the other will resolve nothing.” Note: Diaz-Balart was a leader in 2013 in the House Gang of Eight, working in parallel with a Senate Gang of Eight to develop a bipartisan compromise on comprehensive immigration reform:
- Diaz-Balart on immigration reform: ‘There’s pushback on everything’, Washington Post, 6/8/13
- Healthcare — “I am committed to finding solutions to our nation’s healthcare needs.“
- U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart says repealing Obamacare will help the economy, Naples Daily News, 1/5/17
Key National Votes
Justfacts.votesmart.org tracks incumbents’ votes on key national legislation. Among Diaz-Balart’s votes tracked are those where he:
- Voted NO on HR 1808 – Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, 7/29/22
- Voted YEA on HR 8404 – Respect for Marriage Act, 7/19/22
- Voted NO on HR 8296 – Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022, 7/15/22
- Voted NO on HR 8297 – Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022, 7/15/22
- Voted NO on H Res 730 – Recommending that the House of Representatives find Stephen K. Bannon in contempt of Congress …, 10/21/21
- Voted YES on HJR 2 – Proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 11/18/11
- Congressional website — mariodiazbalart.house.gov
- Campaign Website – mariodiazbalart.org
- Facebook — mdiazbalart
- Twitter — @MarioDBCamp
In the News
- Diaz-Balart met with Collier Sheriff Rambosk, toured Real-Time Operations Center, Facebook, 8/5/22
- Opinion: Biden making a mistake relying on foreign oil. Keystone XL pipeline is a solution, by Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos A. Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar, Miami Herald, 7/23/22
- Mario Díaz-Balart powers through Q2 raising $210K, opponent faces FEC fine, Florida Politics, 7/18/22
Diaz-Balart has been endorsed by former Pres. Trump.
CD26 Race in the News
- District 26 election: Incumbent Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart faces Darren Aquino, Christine Olivo, Naples Daily News, 7/27/22
Here are the monetary contributions and expenditures reported by each candidate according to their most recent Federal Election Commission filings:
All but $1,700 of Aquino’s total receipts are from himself or his nonprofit, including loans totaling $13,092.
Diaz-Balart received 538 itemized individual contributions totaling $725 thousand, of which 65 contributions totaling $72 thousand were from Naples, FL, addresses. He also received 241 contributions totaling $537 thousand from political committees.
Only you can decide which candidate you think would better represent you in Congress. If you have questions about either of the candidates, don’t hesitate to contact them directly through their website.
If you have questions or need additional information about the election itself, visit your Supervisor of Elections website or call 239-252-8683.