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Donalds, Banyai win District 19 primaries for Congress seat

August 18, 2020
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

In the race for the 19th District U.S. House of Representatives seat, Naples Republican and State Rep. Byron Donalds finished ahead of Cape Coral Republican and State Rep. Dane Eagle in their nine-way race for the Republican primary while Fort Myers Democrat Cindy Banyai won a primary over David Holden to run for the Congressional seat covering Lee County and Collier County in November.

The order of finish in the Republican primary after Donalds and Eagle was Casey Askar, William Figlesthaler, Randy Henderson, Christy McLaughlin, Dan Severson, Darren Aquino and Daniel Kowal.

Eagle won Lee County with 18,772 votes compared to 15,094 for Donalds. In Collier County, Donalds was ahead with 8,386 votes compared to 3,934 for Eagle with all of the precincts reporting. Askar, of Naples, garnered 14,116 votes in Lee County and tallied 6,654 votes in Collier County.

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State Rep. Byron Donalds

In total, Donalds had 23,480 compared to 22,706 votes for Eagle and 20,770 for Askar.

While Donalds was awaiting the results with two more precincts to count in Collier County, he said he was confident "we're going to hold well in Collier County like we have all day."

Donalds said the top issue among voters in the primary was "they just wanted to make sure they had a proven conservative in Congress."

Donalds credited "a lot of hard work on the ground" for the victory. He called the campaign "muddy" with a lot of attack ads. "You just have to fight through it and persevere," Donalds said.

Donalds will face Banyai, who handily defeated Holden on Tuesday. Banyai won 59% of the vote in Lee County and 51.5% in Collier County with a total winning percentage of 57.5%. Holden, a financial planner, lost to outgoing Rep. Francis Rooney in the 2018 general election.

Banyai, who runs a consulting company and teaches government and political science courses at Florida Gulf Coast University, said "I can't believe the enthusiasm that there has been for the campaign and the desire for the leadership of a mom."

Banyai, a mother of three, said "the most important issue for voters was the COVID-19 response. They wanted to know how we were going to do it better."

Banyai said she advocated for stronger leadership on addressing the pandemic and supports a new round of fiscal stimulus to alleviate the economic impacts of the pandemic "for us to get back on track."



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