Businessman and former college basketball player Curt Clawson, who introduced himself to Southwest Florida voters during the Super Bowl with an ad challenging President Barack Obama to a three-point shooting contest, won a special Republican primary Tuesday for the congressional seat of cocaine-busted Trey Radel.
Clawson, who branded himself “The Outsider,” got 38.3 percent to win the four-candidate primary.
State Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, the former Wellington councilwoman who was the favorite of the GOP establishment, finished a distant second with 25.7 percent. Benacquisto did not have to give up her seat because Florida’s resign-to-run law doesn’t apply to candidates pursuing federal offices. With her Senate seat on the ballot in the fall, she has about $185,000 in her re-election account.
In a congressional district where Republicans have a 45-to-27 registration advantage, Clawson will be the heavy favorite in a June 24 special election against Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood.
Radel resigned in January after pleading guilty to a cocaine possession charge. Because the charge was a misdemeanor, Radel did not lose his right to vote in Florida and cast an absentee ballot in the primary, according to the Lee County elections office.