With less than two weeks before Republican voters in Florida’s 19th Congressional District head to the polls for a special election to replace the disgraced Trey Radel, a new poll shows a tight, three-way primary still up for grabs.
According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Curt Clawson commands 30 percent of likely voters’ support, while state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is at 26 percent and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel is at 21 percent. A fourth candidate, Michael Dreikhorn, is getting 11 percent of the vote, while 12 percent of voters say they are undecided.
This GOP primary has become increasingly testy in recent days, as Clawson has come under fire from his opponents over his business relationship with a sex offender.
On Wednesday, Benacquisto, Dreikorn and Kreegel held a press conference to “demand that Curt Clawson explain contradictory statements he made regarding his relationship with a known child rapist, Glen Borst.” In a surreal scene seemingly written for a TV script, Clawson showed up at the press conference and took the microphone from his three opponents to answer questions about his relationship to Borst.
Before this controversy erupted, Clawson, a wealthy business executive, employed a combination of charisma and cash to seize the lead in this compressed campaign. Benacquisto began the race as the front-runner but had seen her lead evaporate as Clawson and a super PAC supporting Kreegel flooded the TV airwaves.
The relationship between Clawson and Borst appears to have reset the race, although many voters have already cast their ballot in early voting.
The election is April 22.