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Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples) will face Democratic challenger David Holden in the general election for Florida's Congressional District 19. Lisa Conley, lisa.conley@naplesnews.com; 239-213-5308

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Rep. Francis Rooney defeated challenger David Holden on Tuesday in the race for U.S. House District 19, which takes in coastal Collier and Lee counties.

Rooney won with 211,321 votes, or 62.3 percent, besting Holden's 127,952 votes, or 37.7 percent, according to the Florida Division of Elections unofficial results.

A Republican from Naples, Rooney was first elected to the House in 2016 when he received 64 percent of the votes in Lee County and 71 percent in Collier. He said his re-election is confirmation that the people of District 19 trust him to look out for their best interests.

More: Election results: Florida and Collier winners in the Nov. 6 midterm election

Live election database: Florida and Collier results

"It's a constant honor and privilege to represent my community," Rooney said Tuesday night. "I'm thankful for the opportunity and look forward to continuing to do what I'd say I do."

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Rooney said restoring the Everglades will be his top priority. It’s the same platform he ran on two years ago, and he said he hopes to continue the progress he’s already made.

“We’ve been getting some paltry $50 million a year here and there for the 18 years since the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was passed, and now we’ve got $1.1 billion in 20 months,” he said in an Oct. 11 interview. “So I intend to continue pushing hard on that and I’m going to get it. And we’re going to get more.”

More: Collier voters turn out in 'historic' numbers for 2018 midterm elections

More: Election Day 2018: Precincts see steady stream of voters; follow our coverage of the midterm election in Collier County

Specifically, he's focused on building the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir — a $1.6 billion state-federal project designed to send excess Lake Okeechobee water to the Everglades and Florida Bay, where it's desperately needed, rather than the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, where it causes severe environmental damage — and repairing the lake's aging Herbert Hoover Dike.

Rooney's second priority is extending a ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The ban, which was put in place in 2006, expires in 2022.

He also said he wants to "fix the country’s broken immigration system" and bring competitive pricing to the pharmacy industry.

Holden of Naples, a Wells Fargo financial adviser with a degree from Harvard, knew he was facing an uphill battle; Democrats in District 19 are outnumbered by both Republicans and unaffiliated voters. That means that in order to win, Holden needed the majority of unaffiliated voters to cast their ballots for him.

Holden said he's proud of his campaign and it was a privilege to run.

“I think we did a fantastic job,” Holden said Tuesday night. “We ran because we believe we offer a different sort of leadership and policy ideas than the Republicans and we also wanted to build a capacity in the system to bring in young people and run Democrats in as many races as possible, and we were successful in that.

"This has become a movement of people who want an alternative," he continued, "and we're going to continue to grow this."

In case you missed it: Democrats say U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney's mailer violates campaign rules

And: U.S House candidates Francis Rooney, David Holden talk priorities

Holden said it's "too soon to tell" if he'll run again, but he plans on staying involved in the community.

Connect with the reporter at Lisa.Conley@naplesnews.com or on Twitter @LNConley.

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