Businessman Curt Clawson won the Republican nomination Tuesday night in the Florida special-election race to replace former Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., and he is now likely to be the district's next member of Congress.
Clawson won with 38 percent of the vote, with 95 percent of precincts reporting at the time the Associated Press called the race. Finishing behind him were state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto with 26 percent and state Rep. Paige Kreegel with 25 percent.
He will now face Democrat April Freeman in the June 24 special, where Clawson is heavily favored.
The tea party will likely claim credit for the win. Clawson overtly aligned himself with the conservative base of the party, but he also broke from the crowd thanks to his own self-funding. He loaned his campaign $2.65 million, according to his pre-primary Federal Election Report.
Clawson is one of several self-funding Republicans this cycle.
Benacquisto's loss is another setback for "Project GROW," an effort by House Republican women to shepherd female candidates through party primaries. Florida state Rep. Kathleen Peters was unable to emerge from another special-election primary this year. She, like Benacquisto, benefited from the support of members of Congress.
The seat's vacancy was created by Radel's resignation from Congress. He pled guilty to cocaine possession in November and resigned in late January.
The 19th District is based on the Gulf Coast and includes the cities of Fort Myers and Naples.
Florida Special Election Winner Challenges President to 3-Point Contest