Radel declares victory in Southwest Florida race for Congress

Dania Maxwell/Staff
Republican Trey Radel, left, his wife Amy Wegmann Radel, center, and their son, Jude, right, celebrate Trey's victory in the primary elections for his seat in congress for district 19 at the Trianon Bonita Bay Hotel on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Photo by DANIA MAXWELL // Buy this photo

Dania Maxwell/Staff Republican Trey Radel, left, his wife Amy Wegmann Radel, center, and their son, Jude, right, celebrate Trey's victory in the primary elections for his seat in congress for district 19 at the Trianon Bonita Bay Hotel on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Trey Radel, GOP U.S. House 14 candidate, on NewsMakers 2-12-12.

Trey Radel, GOP U.S. House 14 candidate, on NewsMakers 2-12-12.

Video from NBC-2

Trey Radel, a former Southwest Florida television and radio personality, was the surprise winner in Tuesday’s District 19 Congressional race, buoyed by an endorsement from outgoing Rep. Connie Mack.

“Everyone, we did it. We did it,” an excited Radel said to supporters at a party at the Trianon Hotel in Bonita Springs. “This is a very serious, serious moment, but we can be happy. We (still) have a lot of work to do.”

According to the state’s election website, with more than 74,000 votes counted, Radel had about 30 percent of the vote. He declared victory at about 8:25 p.m.

Chauncey Goss came in second in the district with about 21.5 percent.

Goss, 46, of Sanibel Island, was endorsed by Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president. Ryan was in Southwest Florida two weeks ago stumping for Goss.

Radel now heads to the November general election against Democrat Jim Roach, 60, of Cape Coral, a retired GM research engineer and decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and nonparty candidate Brandon M. Smith, 25, of Naples, a hotel software programmer.

The district is so heavily Republican that most political observers expect Tuesday night’s vote will decide who heads to congress to replace Mack, R-Fort Myers.

The newly drawn District 19 is diverse and includes the wealthiest and poorest voters, encompassing all of Lee County and coastal portions of Collier County, including Naples and Marco Island.

Goss, 46, of Sanibel Island, strode into Mastello Italian restaurant south of Fort Myers as a crowd of 60 supporters clapped, whistled and cheered. They hugged Goss and his three sons. Goss conceded around 8:45 p.m.

“We didn’t win, but I think we had a great campaign, certainly a campaign to be proud of,” Goss said to reporters afterward.

Goss, whose father, former CIA director Porter Goss, once held the seat, attributed the loss to dilution of votes among six GOP challengers.

“It’s a six-way primary and a lot of spit votes. That’s really what it comes down to,” he said, adding that he thought Ryan’s endorsement helped his campaign. “Paul is a huge positive in anyone’s life.”

Radel also likely received a bump because of his endorsements. Radel not only received an endorsement from the congressman, but also from former Sen. Connie Mack III, the congressman’s father. The former senator also was once Southwest Florida’s congressman.

Radel said he didn’t know how much weight those endorsements carried when voters went to the polls, but said he was grateful for the support of the Mack family.

Also losing to Radel were:

■ Byron Donalds, 33, a Naples commercial credit officer and Tea Party favorite.

■ State Rep. Paige Kreegel, 53, a Punta Gorda physician and farmer who has served in the Legislature for nearly eight years, the term limit.

■ Rep. Gary Aubuchon, 50, a Cape Coral builder and real estate agent who is in his sixth year on the Legislature.

■ Trailing the pack was Naples lawyer Joe Davidow, 28.

Aubuchon conceded around 8:30 p.m.

“We thought it was going to be close, and it was, but it wasn’t close for all of us,” Aubuchon said. “The rest of us were kind of packed together. I just didn’t see one candidate breaking that far ahead of the field. That was the surprise of the night.”

Aubuchon pulled just 9 percent of the vote in Collier County, where he finished fifth, and couldn’t break from the pack in Lee County, earning 17 percent.

With his term in the state Legislature set to end, Aubuchon said he will return full-time to running his company, Aubuchon Homes.

Kreegel wasn’t immediately commenting, his campaign supporters said.

Donalds stood in front of an emotional crowd of supporters at a Naples restaurant and thanked them for their support during the past few months.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Donalds said. “If I decide to run again, which I probably will, just know I have all your phone numbers and emails.”

As the night wound down, Radel chatted with family members and supporters. He said he was taking a moment to reflect on the night’s outcome before gearing up for another few months of campaigning.

“I feel like I have a new responsibility that sits on my shoulders,” Radel said. “People believe in (our) message.”

__ Staff Writer Jacob Carpenter contributed to this report

* * * * * *Posted earlier * * * * *

Former Southwest Florida TV and radio personality Trey Radel declared victory around 8:25 p.m. Tuesday in his bid for a Congressional seat.

“This is about restoring the United States of America, which we know and love,” Radel said to supporters at a party at the Trianon hotel in Bonita Springs. “Come November, I’ll be proud to stand up as the next congressman in Southwest Florida.

“Everyone, we did it. We did it!” he said.

Radel will now head to the November general election in a race against Democrat Jim Roach, 60, of Cape Coral, a retired GM research engineer and decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and nonparty candidate Brandon M. Smith, 25, of Naples, a hotel software programmer.

But the district is so heavily Republican that most political observers expect Tuesday night’s vote will decide who heads to congress.

The newly drawn District 19 is diverse and includes the wealthiest and poorest voters, encompassing all of Lee County and coastal portions of Collier County, including Naples and Marco Island.

According to the state’s election website, with more than 74,000 votes counted in District 19, Radel had about 30 percent of the vote. Chauncey Goss was second in the district with about 21.5 percent; he was endorsed by Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president.

Radel, 36, of Fort Myers, is a popular conservative talk show host and entrepreneur. He was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, who left the seat in a bid for U.S. Senate.

Goss, 46, of Sanibel, who operates a fiscal policy analysis firm and once served as deputy staff director for the U.S. House Budget Committee.

Also trailing Radel were:

* Byron Donalds, 33, a Naples commercial credit officer and Tea Party favorite.

* State Rep. Paige Kreegel, 53, a Punta Gorda physician and farmer who has served in the Legislature for nearly eight years, the term limit.

* Rep. Gary Aubuchon, 50, a Cape Coral builder and real estate agent who is in his sixth year on the Legislature.

* Trailing the pack was Naples lawyer Joe Davidow, 28.

Aubuchon conceded around 8:30 p.m. and Goss around 8:45 p.m. Kreegel wasn't immediately commenting, his campaign supporters said.

"We thought it was going to be close, and it was, but it wasn't close for all of us," Aubuchon said. "The rest of us were kind of packed together. I just didn't see one candidate breaking that far ahead of the field. That was the surprise of the night."

Aubuchon pulled just 9 percent of the vote in Collier County, where he finished fifth, and couldn't break from the pack in Lee County, earning 17 percent.

Television might have doomed the campaign, Aubuchon said. Radel, Kreegel and Goss all had larger network television buys.

A negative ad against Radel might have backfired, Aubuchon added. The ad criticized Radel's company for buying explicit domain names, but its production value and a response ad featuring Radel's wife, television anchor Amy Wegmann, might have made Radel sympathetic, Aubuchon said.

"I really think it was the attack ad that was running against him and his response to the attack ad that actually brought him ahead of the field," Aubuchon said.

With his term in the state legislature set to end, Aubuchon said he will return full-time to running his company, Aubuchon Homes.

Donalds stood in front of an emotional crowd of supporters at a Naples restaurant and thanked them for all of their support during the past few months.

"I'm not going anywhere," Donalds said. "If I decide to run again, which I probably will, just know I have all your phone numbers and emails."

* * * * * *Posted earlier * * * * *

Trey Radel has grabbed a commanding lead in Lee and Collier election results in a six-way race for Southwest Florida’s District 19 congressional seat, in a contest experts predicted would be hard to call among four top challengers.

According to the state’s election website, with more than 50,000 votes counted in District 19, Radel had about 37 percent of the vote. Chauncey Goss was second in the district with about 19 percent; he was endorsed by Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president.

Radel, 36, of Fort Myers, is a popular conservative talk show host and entrepreneur. He was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, who left the seat in a bid for U.S. Senate.

As of 8:15 p.m., Radel had yet to show up at his election night party in Bonita Springs.

The room erupted in cheers as supporters watched election results. Supporters clapped and yelled "go Trey!"

"This is only the beginning, the big one is in November," the party DJ announced/

Supporters were waiting for Radel to come downstairs as of 8:15 p.m.

Goss, 46, of Sanibel, who operates a fiscal policy analysis firm and once served as deputy staff director for the U.S. House Budget Committee.

Also trailing Radel were:

* Byron Donalds, 33, a Naples commercial credit officer and Tea Party favorite.

* State Rep. Paige Kreegel, 53, a Punta Gorda physician and farmer who has served in the Legislature for nearly eight years, the term limit.

* Rep. Gary Aubuchon, 50, a Cape Coral builder and real estate agent who is in his sixth year on the Legislature.

* Trailing the pack was Naples lawyer Joe Davidow, 28.

Optimism is running thin at the watch party for Aubuchon in Cape Coral, where about 50 supporters have gathered.

Aubuchon, casually dressed in a campaign polo shirt, has been greeting supporters in the foyer of his real estate company's headquarters, also his campaign base as he tries to ascend from the Florida Legislature to Congress.

Aubuchon's struggles appear to have manifested in Collier County, where he had less than 10 percent of the early vote with about half of precincts reporting.

* * * * * *Posted earlier * * * * *

Trey Radel appears to be the winner of heated six-way race for Southwest Florida’s District 19 congressional seat, in a contest so close experts admitted it was hard to call between four top challengers.

Radal won in Lee County; Byron Donalds was leading in Collier County.

Radel, 36, of Fort Myers, is a popular conservative talk show host and entrepreneur. He was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, who left the seat in a bid for U.S. Senate.

Donalds, 33, is a Naples commercial credit officer and Tea Party favorite.

Trailing Radel, who had about 37 percent of the vote in Lee and who was a close third in Collier, were:

Chauncey Goss, 46, of Sanibel, who operates a fiscal policy analysis firm and once served as deputy staff director for the U.S. House Budget Committee.

State Rep. Paige Kreegel, 53, a Punta Gorda physician and farmer who has served in the Legislature for nearly eight years, the term limit.

Rep. Gary Aubuchon, 50, a Cape Coral builder and real estate agent who is in his sixth year on the Legislature.

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