"Heavy hitters" consider running for Trey Radel's old congressional seat

Biggest names in teh race are on the sidelines for now

CREATED Jan. 28, 2014

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FORT MYERS, Fla.- Less than 24 hours after Republican Trey Radel resigned from congress in the wake of cocaine conviction, speculation over who will replace him is intensifying.

Before his resignation yesterday, most political analysts were expecting the race to come down to who would win the GOP primary in August. 

But with Radel gone, a special election will be held sooner rather than later.

That means the winning candidate will have to line up money and support in a very short amount of time.
 
Local political analysts say most of the people who come closest to fitting that description haven't actually declared their candidacies yet.
  
There are four candidates - all Republicans - who political insiders say have the power to pull together an immediate multi-million dollar campaign to win District 19 - which includes all of Lee county and western Collier county.
 
Dr. Paige Kreegel - who came in third behind Radel in Chauncey Goss in the last GOP primary - has already filed to run.
 
But the other three have not.
 
At the top of the list is State Senate majority leader Lizbeth Benacquisto who's been running TV commercials touting her record. 
 
Former Congressman, Connie Mack who previously held the seat before Trey Radel and endorsed Radel for the seat.
 
And Chauncey Goss, who was runner up to Trey Radel in the last election.
 
Goss is in Washington D.C. right now, talking to people on Capitol Hill, reviewing his options.
 
"I'm taking a look at the race and I hope to have a decision by the end of the week," Goss told Fox 4 by phone.
 
And if the race were today the Saint Peters blog shows Benaquisto dominating with 32.5%.
 
The blog shows Goss with 15.3%, Kreegel with 9.6%, and Mack with 22.3% .
 
Benacquisto is slated to be up in Washington later this week to meet with Republican activists to talk about her plans for the future.
 
"Lizbeth Benacquisto is continuing to consider a run as she is talking to the people who she serves and the people like her family and fiends," her campaign manager, Brian Hughes, told Fox 4 by phone.
 
Another reveAling number in the blog poll, Connie Mack had a notably high unfavorable rating then all the other potential candidates.
 
44% viewed him unfavorably comapred to 39% of those who had a favorable opinion of him.
 
Having run state wide elections, political consultant Pete Wilson in Tallahassee doesn't expect Mack to run for public office again.
 
Wilson tells Fox 4 by phone, "I haven't heard any indicators out of Washington or Florida that show me he's going to get into it."
 
"I think he is spending a lot more time with his family and his new private sector work."
 
Mack works as a lobbyist in Washington now.
 
While much of the attention on the race is focusing on Republican candidates, there is a Democrat in the mix too. 
 
April Freeman says she's ready to win the seat and become the first Democrat to represent Southwest Florida in the House in many years.