- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2020

Ford O’Connell, a Republican candidate running in southwest Florida to replace retiring GOP Rep. Francis Rooney, suspended his campaign Thursday due to the spread of COVID-19, making it too difficult to run a thorough campaign.

“After much thought and careful consideration, it is with a heavy heart I announce that I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for the FL-19 U.S. congressional seat,” Mr. O’Connell announced in a press release.

The Republican strategist said lives are at stake during the global pandemic, which weighed on his decision.

“As a result of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, we cannot run the type of campaign we wanted to run; one where we go to local events and meetings, schools and libraries, museums and restaurants, and speak to voters and hear about the issues that matter to them, where we get our message out face-to-face with citizens at the grassroots level through an exchange of ideas, having real conversations that matter, rather than in 30-second TV ads,” he said.

“Public safety is paramount, and an election where voters’ health may be endangered to run a campaign by, for, and of the people is not one in which I can in good conscience continue,” Mr. O’Connell added.

He said he will donate a portion of his campaign funds to the American Red Cross and the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida.

His move comes days after a 24-year-old Christy McLaughlin entered the field, also running on a pro-Trump platform. Florida state Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen and Dane Eagle are also competing for the seat.

The primary for Florida’s 19th Congressional District is scheduled for August.

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