NAPLES — Attention, Southwest Florida voters: Election Day is just around the corner.
The special elections for the District 19 congressional seat vacated by Rep. Trey Radel will be held in April and June. Florida Gov. Rick Scott scheduled the primary for April 22. The general election will be June 24.
Southwest Florida officials have set the cost of the special election at about $1.5 million total for Lee and Collier counties.
Radel, a 37-year-old Fort Myers Republican, resigned Monday, two months after he pleaded guilty to a possession of cocaine charge. Radel received a year of probation but no jail time.
His resignation left the District 19 seat vacant. State and federal law require that vacant seats in the U.S. House of Representatives be filled by an election, not an appointment. Under state law, Scott was required to set the dates.
This is the second congressional special election Scott has been required to call since taking office. In October, he called a special election to fill the District 13 congressional seat after the death of longtime Republican Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young.
In that case, candidates were given a designated 24-hour period to submit the required papers to get on the ballot.
Sharon Harrington, the Lee County supervisor of elections, said her staff will begin working immediately to make sure there aren’t any problems at the polls come election day.
“We’re going to be very proactive,” she said. “We’re going to be sending out letters to voters. We’re trying to do the best we can to not have long lines.”
Harrington said she expects there will be eight days of early voting in advance of the special elections. She didn’t yet have the specific early voting dates Friday evening.
The congressional district includes most of Lee County and much of Collier County.
Harrington said she told state officials the special elections could cost between $750,000 and $1 million in Lee.
Jennifer Edwards, Collier County’s supervisor of elections, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. However, Dave Carpenter, the county’s elections qualifying officer, told the Daily News earlier this week a special election could cost Collier County between $500,000 and $750,000.
Now that the special election dates are set, Southwest Floridians can expect a barrage of candidates to get in the race.
As of Friday, eight people had filed the necessary paperwork to run in the regular August primary and November general election. The Republicans are Curt Clawson of Bonita Springs, Michael Dreikorn of Bokeelia, Mike Giallombardo of Cape Coral, Brian Gibens of Cape Coral, Paige Kreegel of Punta Gorda and Estero, and Timothy Rossano of Fort Myers. Also in the race are Cape Coral Democrat April Freeman and Ray Netherwood, a Libertarian Party of Florida candidate from Marco Island.
Many of those candidates have said they intend to get in the race for a special election. However several potential candidates, such as state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and 2012 Republican congressional contenders Chauncey Goss and Byron Donalds, haven’t said yet whether they plan to run. All three have said they’re considering a bid and would make a decision soon.
Southwest Florida voters will be heading to the polls in April and June for the special congressional election.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott confirmed the special primary election for the District 19 congressional seat will be held on April 22. The special general election will come just two months later on June 24.
The news comes less than a week after Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, resigned from Congress. Scott, a Naples Republican, needed to call a special election to fill the seat.