Florida election seen as test of Tea Party clout

McClatchy Washington BureauApril 22, 2014 

The Tea Party Express is billing Tuesday's special congressional election in Florida as a major test of its strength.

The open seat in southwest Florida was created earlier this year when Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., resigned. The winner of Tuesday's special election is expected to beat a Democratic opponent in the June general election.

Four Republicans are vying for the nomination: According to Associated Press, they include Lizbeth Benacquisto, a 46-year-old state senator; Curt Clawson, a 54-year-old former CEO of an aluminum wheel company; Michael Dreikorn, a 52-year-old aerospace and defense consultant; and Paige Kreegel, a 55-year-old physician.

AP reports "Benacquisto has been endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin — who called Benacquisto a fellow "mama grizzly" who will protect southwest Florida."

But it's Clawson that the Tea Party crowd wants. He's raised the most money, been endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and has run a campaign "about Tea Party ideas and real-world solutions," according to a Tea Party Express statement.

"This election will set the stage for what's shaping up to be a successful primary season for Tea Party candidates across the country," the group added.

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