Self-funded candidate scores upset in Fla. primary

CEO wins GOP nomination to replace Rep. Radel

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A self-funded candidate beat the odds and won a special Republican primary on Tuesday to run for the seat of disgraced former Rep. Trey Radel.  

Former corporate CEO Curt Clawson, who won the primary to fill the seat of Mr. Radel in Florida’s 18th district, has so far spent $3.4 million of his own money on his campaign. Mr. Radel resigned after being caught in a drug-buying sting in Washington.

Statistically, candidates who fund their own campaigns are not as successful as those who solicit contributions from outside organizations and donors. But Mr. Clawson, who was virtually unknown a few months ago, was able to win the primary with about 38 percent over State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.

I put my money where my mouth is in this campaign,” said Mr. Clawson, who has been embraced by the tea party, told the south Florida News-Press newspaper. “I’m not ashamed of that, and I’m proud to be helping my country.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 159 House candidates since 2002 have spent at least $1 million of their own money on their campaigns. Out of those 159, just 23 – or 14.4 percent – won the election.

However, of the 136 millionaire self-funders who lost, 109 – or 80 percent – personally bankrolled more than half of their campaign.

Some experts say that the reason self-funded candidates are less likely to win elections is because they have a hard time convincing voters that their previous financial success would make them good politicians.

Whatever skills they may have in making money may not translate well in terms of political communication,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at Campaign Legal Center.

In a Republican-leaning district, Mr. Clawson is expected to easily win the special general election on June 24 against Democrat April Freeman.   


© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Kellan Howell

Kellan Howell

Kellan Howell, an investigative reporter for The Washington Times, covers campaign finance and government accountability. Originally from Williamsburg, Va., Kellan graduated from James Madison University where she received bachelor’s degrees in media arts and design and international affairs with a concentration in western European politics.

During her time at JMU, she interned for British technology and business news website “ITPro” ...

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