With Congressman Curt Clawson deciding not to run for another term, four candidates have lined up for the Nov. 8 ballot to see who will fill his seat in District 19.
Francis Rooney, who won the Republican primary on Aug. 30, will face off with Democrat Robert Neeld as well as two write-in candidates, David Byron and Tim Rossano.
None of the candidates have held formal political office, and they all bring something different to the table.
Francis Rooney, Republican
Occupation: executive, construction
Education: Law degree from Georgetown University
Family: Wife, three grown children, two grandkids
For Rooney, who earned the Republican nomination, this is the first time he has run for elected office. He has had a long history of political involvement as a fundraiser for GOP candidates and as Ambassador to the Holy See.
Rooney's main strength has been in the private sector, serving as the CEO of Rooney Holdings and as principal owner of Manhattan Construction Company, an international firm.
Rooney said his frustration over the past eight years led him to run, especially in regards to terrorism.
"I'm concerned about our incoherent foreign policy whereby our enemies don't fear us and our friends can't count on us, leading to instability," Rooney said.
Economically, Rooney said there is an excess of government regulations that is stifling job growth.
"I'm also concerned about the invasive regulations and excess spending over the last eight years that threaten to deny economic opportunity for the next generation."
Rooney said the Republican philosophy of "limited government, the power of individuals, assurance of freedom and allowing people to live the American Dream the way they want instead of the government imposing on them" is the best model.
Rooney also said the federal government has to live up to its promise with funding of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) to start the programs needed to restore it.
Education should be handled locally and the tax code needs to get rid of sociology as it can be counterproductive to creating jobs and give advantages to special interests, he added.
Two things give him the advantage: His business background gives him the edge and being "an outsider" will bring fresh perspective.
"I have a lifetime of experience in international affairs and business that gives me a different perspective than career politicians. I've created jobs, balanced a budget and signed a paycheck," Rooney said.
Robert Neeld, Democrat
Residence: Cape Coral
Occupation: Accountant, bookkeeping
Education: High school, some college
Robert Neeld, a Democrat, said the 12th amendment inspired him to run, fearing that no candidate would get the necessary 270 electoral votes to win the election, meaning the U.S. House would elect the next president.
Neeld raised money for his campaign by walking from Bokeelia to Marco Island, similar to what Lawton Chiles did when he ran for Senate in 1970.
Neeld said water quality is something that won't take two years to solve, but he believes the water needs to flow south, the natural flow.
"Even so, the water that goes into the lake is still polluted. We need to work with the congressmen around the Kissimmee Water Basin because that's where most of the water into Lake O comes from," Neeld said. "We need to clean that water before it gets to the lake."
That takes money. And the $19 trillion debt is limiting the resources they have. Neeld said it will take a balanced approach of spending cuts and tax increases.
"There are two sides to the debt problem; the spending side and the revenue side. We need to not take anything off the table, but we need to make smart decisions about both," Neeld said.
Neeld calls himself progressive. He believes if you invest in early childhood education, it means lower costs for future expenses.
"The synapses in the brain are growing at an incredible rate in newborns. If they get the attention they need from their parents, those newborns will become toddlers who are easier to educate," Neeld said.
Neeld said he opposes putting boots on the ground, but we need to be sure we are safe at home through intelligence and our own recognition of dangers.
"I represent the people. I work every day. Anybody who wants an outside need look no farther than me," Neeld said.
There also are two write-in candidates who filed qualifying paperwork:
Residence: Cape Coral
Occupation: Director of Communications, Southwest Florida Military Museum
Education: Associates degrees, community college, Air Force
David Byron spent 32 years as a member of the Air Force and didn't consider a run until Curt Clawson decided not to seek re-election. He said he didn't like the direction the nation was heading in. Since he couldn't be politically active in the service, he thought now was the time.
"I starting looking at what I was defending and I wasn't too impressed and decided we needed to make a change," Byron said.
Byron said he's happy the government has decided to act on the water issue and hopes the state steps up to make things happen.
On the federal level, he wants Congress to look into national defense.
"Our military has gotten smaller with a budget crunch and we're losing our edge militarily. We need to strengthen that," Byron said.
He also said he would look into veteran affairs, being one himself, and get the VA under control.
On immigration, Byron said the government needs to enforce the laws already on the books and decide whether changes need to be made.
Byron spent a lot of time overseas helping to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which he said makes foreign policy a strength.
On smaller government, he said, "reining in government overreach and getting Congress focused more on what they're supposed to do instead of going on tangents."
Byron said he should be elected because of his military and public service experience, as well of his non-party affiliation.
"I'm not going to be led around by party leadership like both of the major parties, which is why things are screwed up. It also means I'll be legislating instead of spending two to four hours of call time every day fundraising," Byron said. "I can use that time to serve the people."
Residence: Fort Myers
Occupation: pipe fitter, fire suppression
Education: High school, trade school
Family: Divorced, two daughters
Tim Rossano has dabbled in politics for years, having run for mayor in Warwick, R.I. 23 years ago, and taking what is his third crack at being elected to the House of Representatives.
"Every two years I run for office and tell people to plant seeds to get the country back on track," Rossano said.
Rossano said the main things he wants to see are term-limits for congressmen and an amendment to balance the budget.
"Six years would probably be the limit, which would basically take everyone out of Congress," Rossano said. "We have to stop spending money we don't have and get us out of debt. It's trillions and trillions and there's no end to it until we have no money."
What would help achieve that is to reduce the size of government, such as get rid of the National Education Association, which he said has only dumbed down the kids, and the Commerce Department.
"There are a lot of wasteful programs that have seen their day and they don't work and its time to put them to bed," Rossano said. "We're making our kids stupid. The average IQ in this country is 100. That's deplorable."
He said the CIA and the military doesn't need more money, though it still needs to be strong, and that Congress doesn't need any more raises.
"They're all millionaires. Why do they need a raise? You make money off us, why do you even need a paycheck?" Rossano said.
Rossano said he's the answer because he's not part of the problem. He's an outsider.
"I can go in and shake things up and scream and yell and get the people to realize what's been going on had to end because otherwise we'll stay stagnant," Rossano said.