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U.S. House District 19 race features primaries for both parties

By Staff | Aug 11, 2020

Primaries will be held on Aug. 18 for the District 19 United States House of Representatives seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Francis Rooney. The candidate will serve a two-year term.

The Republican field has nine candidates and the Democratic field has two candidates.

The Republican Primary, for registered Republicans only – or “closed,” – features candidates: Darren Aquino, Casey Askar, Byron Donalds, Dane Eagle, William “Fig” Figlesthaler, Randy Henderson, Daniel Kowal, Christy McLaughlin and Dan Severson.

The Democratic Primary, open to registered Democrats only, features candidates: Cindy Lyn Banyai and David Holden.

The top vote-getter in each closed partisan primary will advance to the General Election on Nov. 3. Patrick Post has qualified as a write-in candidate.

The seat encompasses most of Lee County and much of Collier, including Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs, Marco Island Naples and North Naples.

The seat has been in Republican hands since 2012. The district’s boundaries were altered in 2016. Prior to 2014, the 19th District encompassed South Florida. Most of Lee was part of the 14th District before 2014, with the district being mostly represented by a Republican since the 1990s, aside from one term.


– Cindy Lyn Banyai

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Democrat

Age: 40

Education/degrees: 2010 Ph.D, Asia Pacific Studies; 2007 M.S., International Cooperation Policy, Specialization: International Public Administration; 2002 B.A., International Relations/Psychology-Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI

Occupation and place of employment:

March 2010-Present-Principal Consultant-Banyai Evaluation & Consulting, LLC. Fort Myers, FL; January 2014-Present-Adjunct Faculty-Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Myers, FL

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: 11.5 years

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking: March 2010-Present-Principal Consultant-Banyai Evaluation & Consulting, LLC. Fort Myers, FL; January 2014-Present: Adjunct Faculty-Florida Gulf Coast University. Fort Myers, FL; 2019-2020: Vice President of Strategy and Operations-Institute of Organization Development. Fort Myers, FL; May 2012-July 2016: Executive Director-Around the Clock Caring, Fort Myers, FL; April-September 2010: Enumerator-United States Census Bureau. Southwest, FL; 2006-2009: Evaluation Specialist-JICA Consultant. Beppu, Japan; 2005-2006: Teacher-Fukuoka, Japan; 2002-2005: Head Teacher-Taipei, Taiwan; 2000-2002: Special Events/In-school Coordinator-East Lansing, MI; May-August 2000: Trade Intern-Senate Finance Committee-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Washington, DC; May-August 1999: Personal Office Intern-Senator Spencer Abraham, Washington, DC

Political Experience/offices held: No prior political offices held. Previous work in U.S. Senate and campaigns. Previous work with government technical assistance. University instruction on American Government and Global Studies.

Civic/Community involvement: 2019-current: Vice President-Children’s Service Foundation of Southwest Florida Foundation; 2018-current: Representative to UN for the International Association for Community Development; 2018-current: Co-Chair-American Evaluation Association Presidential Strand Conference Committee; 2016-2019: President-Community Development Society; 2017-2018: Board of Directors of Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Foundation; 2011-2013: Occupy Fort Myers; 2011-2016: Steering Committee-BikeWalkLee.

Family: Single mom to 3 kids – Ani age 10, JT age 7, Evie age 3

Military Experience: N/A

Website: cindybanyai.com

Planks of your platform:

Health – Affordable health care for all through improvements to the ACA and public option

Environment – Clean water, land, and air through collaborative efforts for cost-sharing and business inclusion

Taxes – Simplification of the tax code through a progressive rate and a commitment to reduce the deficit and burden on everyday Americans

Guns – Safety for people in public and their homes through industry regulations, international cooperation

Women – Strive for inclusion and equity through support for family-friendly workplaces, freedom for family planning, and the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment

Workforce ?All employers can access needed high-skilled staff and employees are fairly compensated for their time and talent without burdening government support systems, research skills gaps and wages to determine federal sustainable minimum living wage

Education – All children have access to high-quality education from cradle to career through support for early childhood education, research on equity gaps, and incentives for cost-savings at public colleges and universities

Why are you running?

Families go bankrupt every day trying to keep their loved ones alive in our broken health care system. Our waters are polluted, and hurricanes and flooding threaten our homes and businesses. I am willing to think together with all leaders and act on the issues that most affect us. I’ve researched and published on community development and governance and am part of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Florida Gulf Coast University. I have the desire, knowledge, and skills to craft meaningful and effective policy that will improve the lives of Southwest Floridians for the long run. I’ve dedicated my entire career to making communities and organizations work better to reach their goals. These are assets that Congress desperately needs right now.

Having a mom and a business owner represent Southwest Florida in Congress means your voice will be heard. I’m not some disconnected guy who barely comes to Southwest Florida, let alone his job in Congress. I live here. My kids were born here, go to school here. I’ve worked tirelessly to listen to what people here think and want for our community, and I’ll continue to do that as your rep. I will not sell out my values and our community to enrich big companies, big donors, and the political elite. I will work for you to craft policy to keep your family safe, to make sure there are good jobs and strong local businesses, and our beloved Florida environment is clean. I promise to protect, promote, and preserve.

Top three issues:

Our water, our health, and our community

– David Holden

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Democrat

Age: 61

Education/degrees: Temple University, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science, 1981; Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.), 2009

Occupation and place of employment: Retired Financial Planner

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: I have lived full-time in Congressional District 19 since 2015, although my wife and I have been spending time in Southwest Florida since 2006. I reside in Collier County.

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking:

Financial Planner, Holden Wealth Management

Deputy Director, California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies (CASRA)

Political Experience/offices held:

Chair, White Plains, NY Democratic Party

Civic/Community involvement:

Chair (founding), Collier County Democratic Environmental Caucus; Member, Greater Naples Leadership (GNL) Masters Class XIV; Member, Florida Council of Hazelden Betty Ford; Vice President of the Board of Directors, Duffy Health Center (Massachusetts); President, United Way of Greater White Plains, NY

Family: Wife, Streeter Holden.

Military Experience: N/A

Website: holdenforflorida.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

During a time in America where politicians seek to divide and distract communities, I am committed to bringing together the people of Southwest Florida, regardless of political affiliation. I am running for Congress to serve as your voice in Washington D.C. I whole-heartedly believe that “it takes a village” to solve the critical issues facing Southwest Floridians today and that together we can solve the problems that cannot be solved alone. As a member of Congress, I will fight tirelessly for the people of Southwest Florida to ensure they have the tools to build a better life for themselves and their community.

Planks of your platform:

Reduce healthcare and prescription drug costs

Strengthen Social Security and Medicare

Clean and protect our waterways and prevent the pollution of our estuaries

Invest in public education and end predatory loan practices aimed at our college students

Fight for a $15 dollar minimum wage

Preserve women’s rights to make their own healthcare decisions

Stand with the LGBTQIA+ community in defending human dignity and human rights

Enact common-sense gun reform

Top three issues:

(1) Healthcare

(2) Climate Crisis/Environment

(3) Economy


– Darren Aquino

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 60

Education/degrees: High school graduate. Post high school studies were homebound due to disability. Constitutional law and how it applies to the rights of disabled.

Occupation and place of employment: CEO and founder of Advocates for Disabled Americans, Veterans, Police, Firemen and Families. ADA VETs is a national non-profit, civil rights organization advocating for, and defending the rights of disabled, all ages, all disabilities. I am the national chief advocate, and have been advocating for disabled for the past 35 years.

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: I have been living in Collier County for the past year.

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking: I started advocating in 1983 and formed the organization as a non-profit in 1999. I successfully obtained benefits for disabled veterans and 911 first responders. I have generated a network from state to state to ultimately guarantee equality where disability is concerned. This was achieved by inclusion of other disabled Americans, merchants and partners joining the network and collaboratively working together to meet this very important goal. I am in constant communication with the office of the President of the United States, state and local officials, holding each accountable. I also provide trainings and outreach, whereby, educating the general public to realize that disabled individuals and their families play a vital role in society.

Political Experience/offices held: I ran for mayor of NYC and for a congressional seat in Nassau County, New York

Civic/Community involvement: As a national Advocate, I am a member of the LEICC, the MRDD network, developed an Angel Tree Program for disabled families, whereby, every year at Christmas, meals and presents are bought for families in need and I personally deliver them. I assist my nephew, who is the pastor of Connect Church in NY, and we deliver meals for families that are in need during Thanksgiving. I volunteer at VA hospitals and assist disabled to get their service dogs certified. I also collect for Toys for Tots and deliver the toys to Early Intervention programs for developmentally delayed infants and toddlers. As a grassroots national advocate, my civic duty never ends.

Family: I am married and my spouse’s name is Sihar. She has worked in the disabilities field for over 30 years. We are a blended family and have 6 children, the youngest being 24 years old and the oldest, 39 years old.

Military Experience: I could not join the military due to my disability. However, seven generations of my family are veterans. One of my priorities as a national advocate, is my service and assistance to disabled veterans. One of my top priorities, should I get elected, is to get the 70,000 homeless veterans off the street, 1,000 of whom live in tent cities, here in Collier county.

Website: aquino4congress.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

I have been making a positive impact in the lives of the vulnerable for the past 35 years as a national advocate. I make ground breaking change as a Congressman. I can develop policy, pass laws that benefit our vulnerable, I want to fight for the forgotten.

Planks of your platform:

America First

We must take care of our country, our issues, our economy, strengthen our families, our family values

Top three issues:

Health care (including mental health)

Fighting for our vulnerable

Our environment and water management

– Casey Askar

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 51

Education/degrees: Harvard Business School, OPM 2019

Occupation and place of employment: Chairman of The Askar Family Office Portfolio located in Naples

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: I have been a seasonal resident of Collier County (Naples) since 2003, but a full-time resident of Collier County since 2010.

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking: I employ thousands of people across the country through the franchise restaurants and other business ventures I have built over the years since my family came to America. Specifically, I own, operate, and franchise hundreds of locations nationwide.

Political Experience/offices held: I have spent my life in the private sector and have not held elected office before.

Civic/Community involvement: I am President of Naples Chapter of Legatus (Catholic CEO’s and Presidents), Current member and past board member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), Past board member of St. Vincent De Paul, Community School of Naples Building and Grounds Committee, and my wife Shera serves as a board of trustee of the Saint Ann’s Catholic School Foundation.

Family: My wife Shera and I are proud and blessed parents to six children, ages 2-22. Their names are Isabella, Alexander, Sebastian, Christian, Valentina and Casey Francis.

Military Experience: United States Marine Corps.

Website: CaseyAskar.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

I’m running for Congress out of the same call of duty that drove me to join the Marine Corps. My story of fleeing religious Christian persecution in Iraq, coming to a new nation with nothing, and growing a business to create thousands of good paying jobs wouldn’t be possible in any other country and now it’s time to give back.

Planks of your platform:

Family, Faith, and Freedom.

Top three issues:

1. Rebuild the American economy

2. Water quality / increase federal funding

3. Protecting our individual liberties

– Byron Donalds

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 41

Education/degrees: Florida State University; degrees in Finance and Marketing

Occupation and place of employment: Assistant Vice President Investments

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: I’m a 17-year resident of Collier County

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking: My business career has been in commercial banking, insurance, and financial services. It is credible experience considering the need for strong economic policy to guide the nation forward, and to make sure that we can reform our budgetary process in Washington.

Political Experience/offices held: Florida House of Representatives: 2016-2020; Civic/Community involvement: Trustee, Florida Southwestern State College, 2014-2016; Board member Mason Classical Academy 2012-2016; Family: Erika Donalds (wife of 17 years). Children: Damon (16), Darin (12), Mason (9)

Military Experience: N/A

Website: byrondonalds.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

SWFL deserves to have a true conservative, since this is one of the most conservative areas in the country.

Our Congressman should have the ability to help grow the Republican Party.

Planks of your platform:

Growing the Republican Party, by taking conservative principles to all voters.

Implementing zero-based budgeting on federal departments and agencies to reign in federal spending.

Removing outdated regulation which is a burden on our small businesses.

Top three issues:

1. Term Limits for Members of Congress

2. Strong immigration reform

3. Protecting and Cleaning our water in SWFL

– Dane Eagle

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 37

Education/degrees: Florida Gulf Coast University, AA, 2003; University of Florida, BA in Economics. 2005

Occupation and place of employment: Commercial Real Estate Broker, CRE Consultants

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: 37 years

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking: Lifelong resident of Southwest Florida; 18 years of business and professional experience in Southwest Florida; 8 years serving Southwest Florida in the Florida Legislature

Political Experience/offices held: Florida House of Representatives State Representative, District 77 (2012-2020); Majority Leader (2018-2020); Majority Whip (2016-2018)

Civic/Community involvement: Many different clubs, organizations, and not-for-profits through my legislative representation and constituent services

Family: Brooke (wife), Ronin (newborn son)

Military Experience: N/A

Website: DaneEagle.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

To support our Constitution, our Country and our President, and to fight against socialism seeking to overturn our republic.

Planks of your platform:

This November we will elect our fifth Congressperson since 2012, and this is not a time to elect inexperienced, unproven candidates. I have a proven conservative track record through my time in the Florida Legislature and as House Majority Leader, and I will bring that conservative fight to Washington on behalf of our community.

Top three issues:

Secure the border

Rebuild the economy

Term limits

– William Figlesthaler, M.D.

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 56

Education/degrees: Wake Forest University, Wake Forest, BS- Cum Laude, 1987; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, MD with Honors, 1992; University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, Residency, 1997

Occupation and place of employment: Urologist, Encore Urology

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: 25 year resident of Southwest Florida

Political Experience/offices held: Proudly never run for or held political office.

Civic/Community involvement: Junior Achievement, Hall of Fame Laureate; Boys and Girls Club, Benefactor and Panel Judge; American Cancer Society, past Board Member; American Heart Association, Benefactor; American Urological Association, Member; American College of Surgeons, Fellow

Family: Father of 3, Grandfather to 5 children, all live here in Southwest Florida

Military Experience: Never served in armed forces; son, Billy, is a decorated Marine combat veteran.

Website: drfigforcongress.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

I am running as the conservative political outsider in this Congressional race. With my experience of raising 3 children as a single father and moving to the district 25 years ago saddled with debt, I achieved my American dream by graduating from medical school and building one of the most successful medical practices in the state of Florida. I did this through hard work and faith in God, not through government handouts. I am the only person in this race who has spent a career signing the front of paychecks, and not the back. As a 25-year physician and business owner, I have proudly never run for, or held, elected office. This means I am not beholden to special interests and can focus solely on the needs of FL-19’s constituents. In my life, I have never quit fighting for my family, I have never quit fighting for a patient, and if given the opportunity to serve you as your next Congressman, will never quit fighting for Southwest Florida.

Planks of your platform: Supporting President’s America First agenda

Top three issues: Conservative immigration reform. Free-Market Healthcare reform. Continuing to fight for clean water in Southwest Florida.

– Randy Henderson

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 64

Education/degrees: Mars Hill College, BS in Business Administration

Occupation and place of employment: Mayor of the city of Fort Myers; CEO/Founder of Corbin Henderson Company

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: 41 years

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking: CEO/Founder of Corbin Henderson Company commercial real estate; Charter Director and Vice Chair T3 Communications, Inc. (15 years) IT services; Vice President of North Carolina National Bank (8 years known today as Bank of America)

Political Experience/offices held: 21 years public service in the city of Fort Myers (10 Years as councilman, 11 years as mayor)

Civic/Community involvement: Director of Fort Myers City Chamber of Commerce (current); Second Vice President of the Florida League of Cities (current); Advisory Board Member of Keiser University (current); Director of Fort Myers Flying Club (current); President Florida League of Mayors (former)

Family: celebrating 41 years of marriage to Ginny Henderson with 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren

Military Experience: N/A

Website: HendersonForFlorida.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

I’m running for Congress to work with President Trump to jumpstart our economy, rebuild America, and reclaim the life we all knew.

Planks of your platform:

Empower the private sector and job creators by cutting red tape;

Fight to balance our national budget and cut wasteful spending;

Enforce our nation’s immigration laws and ensure sanctuary cities become a thing of the past

Modernize our military

Invest in our beautiful coastline here at home to fight blue-green algae and red tide

Top three issues:

Economy/Balance National Budget

Infrastructure/Water Quality

Immigration enforcement

– Daniel Kowal

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

The paper did not receive the candidate’s information forms prior to press time.

– Christy McLaughlin

Seat sought/district: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 25

Education/degrees: FL Gulf Coast University, BA and FL Teaching Certification, Spring 2016. Ave Maria School of Law, Juris Doctor, Fall 2019.

Occupation and place of employment: Constitutional lawyer.

Time in the district in which you are running; years of residency in Lee County: Life-long resident of the district. Born and raised in SWFL.

Business or professional experience applicable to the office you are seeking: N/A

Political Experience/offices held: N/A

Civic/Community involvement: N/A

Family: N/A

Military Experience: None

Website: ChristyforCongress.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

Southwest Florida deserves a candidate with true integrity and honesty. Pledged to not be bought by special interest groups and to only serve the interests of constituents. During time in Washington DC, gained invaluable experience briefing the Mueller report, and attending House committee and subcommittee meetings. Observed the Democrats dirty dealing to very effectively block President Trump from fulfilling his promises. Unafraid to take on the Democrats in Congress and ready on day one. Will unconditionally support President Trump and will unwaveringly fight the socialist and anarchist takeover of America.

Planks of your platform:

The right to life of the unborn without exception. Believes that the only check on tyranny is protection of our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Strongly believes that Constitutional freedoms need to be preserved particularly in these difficult times. A true defender of individual freedoms, was the first candidate to hold virtual town halls and protests challenging the restrictions on personal liberty during the COVID pandemic. Also has volunteered for homeless shelters. Is a lawyer and a Florida certified teacher.

Top three issues:

Abortion, water quality, immigration

– Dan Severson

Seat Sought/District: U.S. Congress (FL-19)

Party: Republican

Age: 65

Education/Degrees: B.S., Physics (dual Minors In Computer Science And Math), St. Cloud State University St. Cloud, Mn, 1978

U.S. Navy Leadership Development: Senior Leadership Advanced Tactics, Naval Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun School), Senior Officer Legal Training Course, Total Quality Leadership Training, Navy Senior Leadership Safety School/ Monterey, Ca.

Occupation And Place Of Employment: Retired

Time In The District In Which You Are Running; Years Of Residency In Lee County: 5 Years

Business Or Professional Experience Applicable To The Office You Are Seeking: COO of 911EP, INC, St. Cloud, Mn $3 Million Budget 30 Employees

Military – Officer In Charge Vfa-305. $15 Million Annual Budget, Pt. Mugu, Ca, 135 Personnel. Branch Head Bureau Of Naval Personnel Pers 911 and 913, Washington Dc. 15 To 17 civil servants. Executive Officer Weapons Test Squadron China Lake, Ca.- 230 military and civilian personnel.

Political Experience/Offices Held: 8 years elected Minnesota House of Representatives. Vice Chair and Minority Committee lead on numerous committees. Executive leadership 4 years and 2 of those years elected Minority Whip; established non-profit for outreach to new immigrant and minority communities with conservative message-Minority Liberty Alliance.

Civic/Community involvement: Past-Wings of Mercy Pilot, Board member of Place of Hope, Board member of Jubilee Worship Center, Minority Community Outreach Director, American Legion member, VFW Lifetime Member, St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce Member

Currently-Life Church, various Ministry Leadership roles over 5 years, VFW lifetime member, Above Board Chamber member

Family: Wife, Cathy Jo – married 45 years, 2 children and spouses, 2 grandchildren

Military Experience: 22 years, US Navy, Top Gun Fighter Pilot, retired Commander, Officer in Charge VFA-305. $15 million annual budget, Pt. Mugu, CA, 135 personnel. Branch head Bureau of Naval Personnel Pers 911 and 913, Washington DC. 15 to 17 Civil Servants. Executive Officer Weapons Test Squadron China Lake, CA.- 230 military and civilian personnel.

Website: seversonforcongress.com

Candidate positions at a glance

Why are you running?

I have a proven track record of Conservative Action that best represents the values and vision of CD-19. I have been a leader in both the military and political arenas and will be a strong conservative voice in Washington DC to promote Godly values and limited government. Of all the candidates running I have the only sustained proven record of conservatism and resolve to do the right thing.

Planks of your platform:

Severson 7 (for greater detail: seversonforcongress.com/the-severson-seven )

Pro Economic Opportunity, Promote new business development in CD-19

Pro Veterans, ensure medical and transitional services are well funded

Pro Constitution, protect it as a strict originalist

Pro Life, begins at conception and press for the Heartbeat bill

Pro 2nd Amendment, no exceptions. Shall not be infringed

Pro Clean Water, funding and collaboration to expedite flow to Everglades

Pro National Security, China is the greatest threat and must be dealt with

Top three issues:

1. Defund Planned Parenthood and create workable adoption alternatives. Work to end abortion and ensure taxpayer money is not used for that purpose.

2. Promote strong boarder security (build the wall) and simplify immigration law removing visa lottery, birthright citizenship and chain migration. Go to merit-based system. Uncontrolled immigration is a national security issue that must be fixed.

3. Promote workable and targeted solutions for cleaning up our waters and estuaries in Southwest Florida. Work to obtain additional federal funding and increase environmental accountability. Dealing with the Kissimmee River basin and Lake Okeechobee are germane. As your congressman I will commit to being on the Transportation and Infrastructure House committees where this work can be done and to give our region a voice.

All biographic information has been provided by the candidates.