Byron Donalds wins election for U.S. Congressional District 19

Amy Bennett Williams
 
| Naples Daily News

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2020: Election Day in Florida

Here’s a look in Florida as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Republican Byron Donalds, who beat some well-heeled rivals in the primary, has won the U.S. House seat now held by fellow Naples resident Francis Rooney, who promised he’d only serve two terms.

Less than half an hour after the Florida polls closed, the Associated Press declared  Donalds the winner of the U.S. District 19 House seat.

In this deeply Republican region, Donalds’ victory against Fort Myers Democrat Cindy Banyai seemed a foregone conclusion.

Donalds will be the third Black Republican to represent Florida in the U.S. House. In 1870, Josiah Walls served; more than century later, Allen West was elected in 2011 for a single term.

Stepping away from an exultant GOP celebration at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Donalds said. “I’m blessed and highly favored, honestly. Southwest Florida has always been great to me and I’m just glad to have the opportunity to represent them in Congress.”

Banyai said even though she didn’t win, the Democratic turn-out for the election was heartening.

“I am so super-proud of the race that we ran,” Banyai said. “The way the Democrats came together in Florida to lift one another up … and to show up and vote really gives me inspiration that we are on the right track.”

Donalds’ quick win in the general election followed a tough primary battle. He was outspent by several of his Republican opponents and won in close contest with Cape Coral native son Dane Eagle by 774 votes.

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Central to Donalds’ platform was his deep conservatism. He describes himself as a  “Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Black man.” 

He also promised to continue Rooney’s environmental and water quality advocacy. Throughout his tenure, Rooney regularly engaged with the region’s water quality issues, touring the Everglades with President Donald Trump and convening several high-level summits with government agency leaders and the public on toxic algae and red tide.

Tuesday was a long day for Donalds, who recovered from COVID-19 last month. He began his day in Naples, then swung through Estero on his way to Cape Coral, where he handed out signs at Vineyards Community Church, precinct 94 before hitting a few more precincts.

“I’m pretty even-keeled,” Donalds said. “Most of the time. Nervous energy. Typically, on Election Day, I’m like this. I never want to take anything for granted.”

Donalds said he voted early Saturday after his 9-year-old son’s youth football game in Naples.

“It’s an exciting time,” Donalds said. “There’s a lot of work to be done. You do all the hard work. You raise the money. You knock on doors. You do more and more on social media. You get to the day before Election Day, and the work has been done. You want to see the numbers.”

– Reporter David Dorsey contributed to this report.

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