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Donalds, Banyai earn nomination from their respective party

By NATHAN MAYBERG / nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com - | Aug 21, 2020

In the race for the 19th District U.S. House of Representatives seat, State Rep. Byron Donalds finished ahead of State Rep. Dane Eagle in a nine-way race for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 18 Primary Election, while Democrat Cindy Banyai won over David Holden for their party’s nomination.

Terry Miller, campaign manager for Eagle, said they were intending to seek a recount due to the margin of victory.

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.

The 19th District covers Lee and Collier counties.

Eagle was the top vote getter in 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.

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.

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

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

A mother of three, Banyai added, “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.”

All results are unofficial until certified.