Lizbeth Benacquisto’s TV ads fuel speculation of a congressional run

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Republican State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto released a new television ad, further fueling speculation that she will join the race for U.S. Rep. Trey Radel’s congressional seat.

Benacquisto’s strong media buy is what some local political experts are calling a “quiet but formal introduction,” according to WBBH/NBC2 reporter Christina Lusby.

The television ad, which starts by referring to the Lee County Republican as a “trusted voice,” comes at an interesting time, since Benacquisto is currently unopposed in her 2014 re-election bid.

Taking in account that she is running ads in January for a primary election that isn’t even until August raises questions about Benacquisto’s intentions.

“She wants to get her name out in the district, and the best way to do it is through television,” said Florida Gulf Coast University political science professor Dr. Peter Bergerson.

Bergerson told Lusby that this new strategy would give her further recognition all through Southwest Florida if she should try to seek Radel’s House seat.

It is not the name recognition for a campaign for her old seat, but one that is focused something more he added.

“She has expressed some interest already in possibility challenging the incumbent Trey Radel,” said Bergerson. “The campaign, in an essence, has started; you can consider this to be a kickoff.”

There is significant money spent for these local advertisement spots on television, estimated at $40,000, which might be a good thing for Lee County voters.

“It helps to put a face with a name, so to speak,” one Lee County resident told WBBH.

If Benacquisto decides to run for Radel’s seat, she will not be alone. Former State Rep. Paige Kreegel announced a formal challenge to Radel, with the support of a Super PAC that claims to have raised $1 million so far.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.