If you live in Congressional District 25, there will be no August primary for your representative, because only one Republican (incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart) and one Democrat (Alina Valdes) are running for that seat. The winner will be decided in the November general election.
If you live in Congressional District 19 (CD–19) and are a registered Republican, you’ll have the opportunity to vote in the closed August primary for one of three Republicans running for the seat currently held by retiring Curt Clawson: Dan Bongino, Chauncey Goss, and Francis Rooney. The winner will face Democrat Robert Neeld and two write-in candidates in November.
Find your congressional district here.
Because Florida is a closed primary state, I encourage you, as I’ve written before, to consider registering as a Republican so you can participate in the Republican primaries. If you aren’t familiar with my rationale, please read here and here.
In this post, I’ll tell you about the three Republicans running in the CD–19 primary and their campaign finances to-date, then close with some noted similarities and differences.
Dan Bongino, of Palm City, FL, is a former New York City police officer (1995 – 1999) and Secret Service agent (1999 – 2011). He left the Secret Service to run in 2012 for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, winning the Republican primary but losing badly in the general election. In 2014, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland, and was endorsed by libertarian Rand Paul. He lost in a close race. (More here.)
He has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the City University of New York and an MBA from Penn State. He is the author of Life Inside the Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away From It All (2013) and The Fight: A Secret Service Agent’s Inside Account of Security Failings and the Political Machine (2016), and hosts a podcast called The Renegade Republican.
Bongino describes himself as “A No Excuses Conservative Candidate for Congress” and says he is running for Congress because “The real fight isn’t Democrats versus Republicans, it’s between the sell outs in the D.C. insider class and the rest of us.” He wants to “sweep D.C. clean” and promises to “leave the congressional office I occupy less powerful over your life when I leave.”
His Palm City address makes me wonder why he’s running for a seat representing Collier and Lee Counties. (Palm City is on the Treasure Coast of Florida, in Martin County.) And why Florida, after two unsuccessful runs for office in Maryland? According to the Sunshine State News, shortly after moving to Palm City, he “promptly started getting asked questions about his political future.” Surprisingly, there is no federal requirement that a congressman live in the district in which he/she is running. The Constitution only requires that a member of the House live in the state, but not the district. And state statutes that required residency have been overturned as unconstitutional.
Chauncey Goss, of Sanibel Island, spent 8 years in Washington, D.C., as a senior staffer, Office of Management and Budget (2002 – 2005), and then Deputy Staff Director for the U.S. House Budget Committee (2005–2010), where he worked closely with Congressman Paul Ryan. Returning to Florida, he founded Goss Practical Solutions LLC, a consulting firm that provides policy analysis, budget forecasting, and political analysis to “demystify federal government spending and regulatory activities.” He began his public policy career as Executive Director of the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association (1992–1998), then worked for three years as a Deputy Division Manager at SAIC, a large federal government contractor based in McLean, VA.
Goss is the son of former CIA Director Porter Goss, who served as a Republican member of Congress from 1989 – 2004 representing a district that at the time included Naples. Previously Goss Sr. served on the Sanibel City Council, including as its first Mayor, and was subsequently appointed to the Lee County Commission by then-governor Bob Graham, a Democrat.
Goss has a B.A. from Rollins College and a Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University.
Goss says he’s running for Congress “because Southwest Florida deserves excellent representation from someone whose primary focus is Southwest Florida.” He is a self-described “fiscal and Constitutional conservative” who wants to cut federal regulation, “repeal and replace Obamacare”, “fight to secure our borders” and “vigorously defend the second amendment.” He will “fight for the rights of the unborn” and “religious and economic liberty,” and “will fight the Department of Education and it’s heavy-handed treatment of our local school districts.”
Goss ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012, defeated by Trey Radel in the Republican primary. In 2015 he was elected to the Sanibel City Council, where he serves as liaison to the Sanibel Planning Commission and the Lee County Horizon Council. Last week, he announced that he was endorsed by 75 local leaders, including Paige Kreegel and Michael Dreikorn, competitors in his prior run for the District 19 seat.
Goss cares about water quality. He says he will “fight for funding to make sure Everglades restoration is fully and aggressively funded” and says he will “work tirelessly to ensure water storage solutions are aggressively pursued around Lake Okeechobee so the environment … will no longer be threatened by water releases.”
L. Francis Rooney of Naples, is CEO of Manhattan Construction Company, the fourth generation of his family to own that company. Among its notable projects are the George Bush Presidential Library and the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
Rooney is also chairman of Rooney Holdings, Inc., a building and construction management company working in the oil and gas, manufacturing, aviation, transportation, retail and environmental industries. He served as the ambassador to the Holy See from 2005–2008, appointed by President George W. Bush.
Rooney has been and remains a major GOP fundraiser. According to an article in the News-Press, he “raised millions of dollars mostly for Republican politicians across the country” and is “known for having a network of wealthy friends who can raise a lot of money in single events for candidates and the GOP.” Citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the article says Rooney, his wife and his companies have contributed at least $6.2 million since 2003 to federal races, and employees from his companies have given nearly $600,000 of their own money to campaigns during that same time period.
Among the 2016 recipients of contributions from Rooney through June are the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Speaker Paul Ryan’s Prosperity Action PAC and candidates Jeb Bush, Carlos Curbelo, John Boehner, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte and Paul Ryan.
Rooney has a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
According to the Naples Herald, both Rooney and Goss support using federal funds to buy up lands to restore the lake’s natural flow into the Everglades, while Bongino is “more skeptical.” A post on Rooney’s website outlines his “Solutions to Halt the Lake Okeechobee Discharges.”
Rooney has been endorsed by former Sen. Connie Mack and former Rep. Connie Mack IV, both of whom represented Southwest Florida in Congress, as well as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), Gov. Rick Scott and former presidential candidate Ben Carson.
If the race will be decided by who raises the most money, there will be no contest.
Notice that Rooney contributed $1.5 million to his campaign. In addition, according to the Naples Daily News, $137,750 of Rooney’s individual contributions came from the 34102 zip code, which includes Port Royal, “where Rooney owns a $20 million house, according to the Collier County property appraiser’s office. Many of Naples’ politically connected appear as donors on Rooney’s disclosure, including Miles and Parker Collier, venture capitalist Joseph Fogg III, former Planters President Dolph von Arx, attorney Tom Grady, real estate developer John Allen, real estate attorney John Passidomo, Kraft Construction founder and Manhattan Construction Chairman Fred Pezeshkan.” More about contributions to Rooney, Goss and Bongino here. Search the Federal Election Commission website of candidate filings here.
Rooney began running 30-second TV ads on June 9 and reported campaign spending of $1.16 million through June 30. And it’s early days. The winner in August will go on to face Democrat Robert Neeld and two write-in candidates in November.
Similarities and Differences
All three candidates espouse an anti-government, anti-abortion platform.
In Rooney’s “Defending Life” TV ad, Jim Towey, President of Ave Maria University, compares him to Mother Teresa “defending the sanctity of life and defunding Planned Parenthood.”
Bongino wants to “sweep DC clean,” with little seeming knowledge or interest in the people or needs of the district he wants to represent. Goss and Rooney are from SW Florida, and claim to care about the Everglades.
Rooney has more global experience than the others, both from his business career and the time he served as ambassador to the Vatican. His business expertise might provide useful in fighting for SW Florida on environmental issues in Washington as Clawson did.
Goss comes from a family that believes in public service and chose a career in public policy. He likely learned a lot about the federal budget through his time working with Paul Ryan on the Budget Committee, and the connections he made then could prove helpful.
A USA Today/Naples Daily News article summed it up well:
In some ways, Goss is the flip side of the Washington coin from his chief GOP rival, former ambassador Francis J. (sic) Rooney of Naples. While the low-key fiscal wonk labored quietly for Washington’s power brokers, the flamboyant Rooney, his wife and his companies were donating millions to them and winning one of the highest forms of patronage: a diplomatic posting to the Vatican.
Hopefully, this research will help you be a more informed voter. Now it’s up to you.