After weeks of heated campaigning, only one Republican was left standing Tuesday night to continue on in the race for the District 19 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Curt Clawson earned 38.25 percent of the votes in the special primary election, with ballots cast in Collier County and Lee County. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Paige Kreegel pulled up a close second and third with 25.68 percent and 25.30 percent, respectively. Michael John Dreikorn took 10.77 percent.
In Lee, 50,082 out of the 150,068 registered voters turned out - about 33 percent.
Candidate Curt Clawson, left, talks with a supporter Tuesday night at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita.
Photo submitted by the Clawson Campaign
Within Collier, 20,257 of the 54,140 voters within the district cast a ballot, or approximately 37 percent.
The special primary election was only open to voters registered as Republican.
Kreegel congratulated Clawson on the win in a prepared statement.
"This was a very competitive race," he said. "The voters of District 19 have spoken, and I'm hopeful that, when elected, he will closely consider the values of Southwest Florida with every vote he casts."
On Tuesday night, Clawson spoke about the need to unite Southwest Florida.
"All is forgiven," he said. "I want you on the team."
Clawson explained why he is running for the House seat.
"I got into this race because I felt like we needed more outsiders in Congress," he said. "The career politicians aren't getting the job done, and I don't see a whole lot of people in Washington with the experience as a CEO in making the tough decisions to save our country."
He touched on the Economic Growth Plan and former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack's Penny Plan.
"We need to cut spending in addition to economic growth," Clawson said. "And I will continue to promote the Penny Plan in Washington and across the country."
Dreikorn also offered his congratulations Tuesday night, but set his sights on the near future.
"We have another campaign that starts tomorrow for the August primary," he said, confirming that he would run again for the seat at that time. "We've already collected some signatures."
The District 19 seat was vacated by former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel after he resigned following his arrest for the possession of cocaine. The current term for the vacated seat runs out at the end of the year.
"When this thing started, I was the one that was fed up and decided to do something," Dreikorn said, explaining that he had little funding and had to start from scratch through building trust.
"I'm no longer the anonymous guy standing up," he said. "Most people have heard my name now."
Asked about the primary election results, Dreikorn pointed to the voter turnout.
"We have to look at the low voter turnout. It's abysmal," he said. "Voting is important, that's the only power that we as citizens have."
Benacquisto did not return messages Tuesday night seeking comment.
Clawson will move on to the special general election on June 24. He will face Democrat April Freeman, Libertarian Ray Netherwood and Timothy J. Rossano, a non-partisan write-in candidate.
Election results are not official until certified by the supervisors of elections.