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District 19 Special Election is Tuesday; Early voting wraps up Saturday

June 19, 2014
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Voters have through Saturday to cast a ballot early in Tuesday's special general election.

Early voting kicked off last weekend in Lee County at several polling locations.

The race for Florida's 19th Congressional District is on the ballot along with, in parts of North Fort Myers, a referendum for the Bayshore Fire Protection and Rescue Service District.

Three partisan and one write-in candidate are vying for the U.S. House seat, which was vacated in late January by former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel.

Registered voters living within the 19th Congressional District, which encompasses most of Lee and parts of Collier County, can vote on the race.

The early voting sites are open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

For a list of the polling locations, visit the website or call (239) LEE-VOTE (533-8683).

"Right now, early voting is really slow," Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington said Thursday. "It's a little on the slow side, so there's absolutely no waiting."

As of Thursday afternoon, 2,984 voters had cast a ballot early at a polling location. A total of 352,127 voters reside within District 19, according to officials.

"We don't really expect a massive turnout like we do for a presidential election," she said.

Harrington reminded voters who requested mail-in ballots to return them.

"We have to physically receive it in the mail by 7 p.m. election night," she said.

As of Thursday, 58,468 mail-in ballots had been returned - more than half of what was requested.

"So, we still have some out there," Harrington said.

Mail-in ballots do not need a stamp because they come with prepaid postage.

"They can just put it in the mailbox for the mailman to take," she said.

On Tuesday, Election Day, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters who did not take advantage of early voting nor use a mail-in ballot must visit their regular polling site to cast a ballot. Harrington noted that there are some polling location changes due to it being a special election.

Voters can visit online at: or call the office to verify any changes.

Those who have moved but not updated their address with the Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office are urged to contact the office before heading to the polls on Election Day.

"It would be very helpful if they would call us before Tuesday," she said, adding that they receive the bulk of their calls for changes day of. "If they can do it ahead of time, that would be great."

Running for the District 19 seat are Republican Curt Clawson and Democrat April Freeman, as well as Ray Netherwood, with the Libertarian Party of Florida, and write-in candidate Timothy J. Rossano.

"There's a candidate on the ballot for everybody," Harrington said.

Freeman reported Thursday via an email that her team has been hard at work.

"We are working hard every day between now and Tuesday," she said. "We are reaching out to voters with my message."

The environment, public education and a full women's agenda are her priorities.

"In Congress, I will represent the people's best interest," Freeman said. "This campaign for U.S. Congress has broken records and created an infrastructure where one did not exist."

Netherwood's camp has also been working hard leading up to the special general election.

"We've had sign wavers and rallies. We've put up a bunch of additional signage on road sides," he said Thursday. "We've been pretty busy the last several weeks."

Rossano described his campaigning efforts as "basically grassroots."

"Flyers along the beaches, at the night spots, at the malls on windshields of cars," he said Thursday, adding that approximately 25 signs have been placed on the lawns of private homes.

"I'm satisfied with what we've accomplished," Rossano said. "People know what my name is - I've gotten my word out."

Asked about his thoughts heading into Tuesday, Netherwood said he was "guardedly optimist." He noted that a number of Republicans voiced support for him after the "ugly and dirty" primary.

Netherwood pointed to a poll from two weeks ago that he says had him in front of Freeman.

"The most telling thing was there was about 42 percent who said they were still undecided," he said. "That is a game changer."

Rossano echoed that sentiment.

"I believe it's anybody's ballgame right now," he said. "I think I have a fair chance at this."

Freeman called her team energized and herself motivated going into next week.

"Going into Tuesday, we are planning a victory party and a fundraiser because when I win, I will be running again this year, as the incumbent, in November's General Election," she said.

The party will take place Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Freeman's campaign headquarters, at 10051 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. The event will be open to the general public.

As far as anything that the candidates would have changed about their campaigns, Netherwood explained that there were candidates who did not attend debates or reach out to opposing parties.

"I wish that I had pounded a little harder about how bad that is for the voters," he said.

Netherwood also cited more time for fundraising.

"I don't know that we would have done much different," he said.

Rossano said he would not change a single thing.

"I've been running campaigns since 1994. I've pretty much got it down to a science on how to get the word out in the grassroots area," he said.

Freeman pushed for the public to get out and cast a ballot.

"I would ask that everyone votes," she said.

Netherwood reiterated that he does not represent the Republican or Democratic parties.

"Voters, for the first time in a long time, don't have to choose between the lesser of two evils," he said.

"If people keep doing more of the same, we'll get more of the same in Washington," Netherwood added. "I can actually represent the people as opposed to a party or corporation."

The Clawson campaign did not respond by deadline Thursday to questions for this story.

Clawson said in an earlier interview that he is an "outsider" and that Congress needs more outsiders like him.

"I am running because I think that our nation needs a new direction," he said.

Clawson beat three opponents to win the Republican nomination.

"If we get great unity in our party," he said in April. "We can win the next round."

Radel resigned following an arrest for possession of cocaine in Washington, D.C. The winner of the race will serve out the remainder of his two-year term, which runs through the end of the year.

District 19 covers the Cape, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Bonita Springs and Naples.

For information, visit the Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office at:



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