On the Ballot: Congressional District 19

Congress District 19

Democrat Cindy Banyai and Republican Byron Donalds won their respective Congressional District 19 primary elections in August. The winner in November will succeed Republican Francis Rooney, who chose not to run for a third term.

Recent articles by Naples Daily News reporter Harriet Howard Heithaus and The News-Press reporter Amy Bennett Williams provide valuable information about the candidates and the race.

In this post, I will review what I learned from researching each candidate, look at the money that is financing the campaigns, and provide links to three online candidate debates.

Please see How I Research Candidates and 6 Things to Consider When Evaluating Candidates for my approach to writing these posts. I also asked the candidates to complete a questionnaire and include excerpts edited for brevity and clarity as well as links to the complete documents below.

Cindy Banyai (Democrat)

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 moved to Southwest Florida in 2008 and has three children.

Banyai 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 platform includes detailed visions, ideas and plans in 15 areas of public policy: environment, health, transportation, veterans, economy, women, taxes, cannabis, guns, workforce, education, foreign policy, immigration, governance reform, and social security.

Press Coverage

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 that is 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 on red tide and blue-green algae and holding polluters accountable.

2. Make healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone, by cutting out profiteering through cost-setting, creating a national program with decentralized administration, and requiring sliding-scale user fees for participation, focused on preventative care.

3. Create a Southwest Florida where the sun shines on everyone, by ensuring that all legislation is considered through an equity lens, that economic recovery programs focus on helping everyday people get back on their feet from the economic crisis, and that small businesses can thrive.

What is the most important thing voters should know about you before making their decision in this race is?

I have the technical expertise to design government policy and the desire to serve the public with inclusive processes for input.


Banyai’s Supporters page lists “endorsements, supporters, and coalitions” including No Dem Left Behind, American Youth Climate Action, Lee County Young Democrats, Moms Demand Action, VoteWater, Florida’s LGBTQ Democrat Caucus, and a number of Democratic candidates for state and local offices.

In Her Own Words

Byron Donalds (Republican)

Donalds was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He has bachelor of arts degrees in finance and marketing from Florida State University and moved to Naples in 2003. He has worked in the finance, insurance, and banking industries, and is currently Associate Vice President of Investments for Moran Wealth Management. He and his wife Erika have three sons.

Donalds has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2016, where he currently sits on five committees and chairs the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

His website lists his views on federal spending, healthcare, taxes, foreign policy, immigration, 2nd Amendment, water quality, and pro-life.

Press coverage

As a State Legislator

As a member of the Florida Legislature, Donalds voted for compensating college athletes, increasing the signature threshold for initiative petitions, E-Verify, requiring parental consent for minors prior to abortion, increasing ballot initiative signature collection requirements, requiring felons to pay outstanding court fees prior to voting rights restoration, authorizing firearms on school campuses, school voucher programs that divert funding from traditional public schools, reducing corporate income tax, and authorizing parents to object to instructional material. For more of Donalds’ voting record, see VoteSmart.

A list and summary of bills sponsored by Donalds in the Florida legislature is at BillTrack50.com.

Donalds was rated very highly by Florida Right to Life, Americans for Prosperity – Florida, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce, American Conservative Union, Foundation for Florida’s Future, the NRA, Florida Health Care Association, and Florida Family Action. He received very low ratings from the Florida Education Association, and LEAP Forward. For more, see VoteSmart.

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?

Being a Black Republican from the inner city of Brooklyn, NY, is about as unique and different as it comes. I also have the unique perspective of having a 17-year career in the finance industry, combined with 4 years of legislative experience.

What are three things you want to accomplish if you are elected to this office?

1. Fully secure America’s southern border and modernize our immigration systems.

2. Create a balanced budget through a zero-based budgeting process.

3. Reform and modernize the regulatory state, so American business can thrive.

Name one current public policy position you disagree with:

The current regulatory environment surrounding nuclear power plants. If we want a sustainable energy source free from fossil fuel use, we should embrace nuclear power and reduce the regulatory hurdle so it is more cost-efficient.

What is the most important thing voters should know about you before making their decision in this race?

There is no one in this race who has my track record of commitment to the US Constitution and conservative principles.


According to his website, Donalds has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, NRA, Americans for Prosperity, Tea Party Express, Republican Liberty Caucus, House Freedom Fund, Florida Family Action, Republican National Hispanic Assembly – Florida, Sen. Rand Paul, The Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Gun Owners of America, and Empower America.

In HIs Own Words

The Money

According to the most recent campaign finance filings available today on the Federal Elections Commission website:

Of note:

Banyai received 213 contributions averaging $367 each. Of them, 106 were from individuals and totaled $42,193; 98 were from political action committees (PACs) and totaled $32,468. Fifty-six percent of Banyai’s money came from entities with Florida addresses; none came from entities with Washington, D.C., addresses.

Donalds received 2,827 contributions averaging $377 each. Of them, 2,651 were from individuals and totaled $636,532; 170 were from PACs and totaled $408,481. Thirty-seven percent of Donalds’ money came from entities with Florida addresses; five percent ($56,385) came from 23 entities with Washington, D.C., addresses.

Candidate Debates

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