Curt Clawson took Florida's 19th Congressional District in a landslide win Tuesday night.
The special general election pitted three partisan candidates and one write-in candidate against one another for the U.S. House seat left vacant in late January by former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel. Clawson, a Republican, was the frontrunner leading into Tuesday after winning his party's nomination in April.
Nearly 100,000 ballots were cast for the race, according to Florida's Division of Elections.
Clawson garnered about 67 percent of the votes, with Democrat April Freeman coming in at second place with approximately 29 percent of the votes. Ray Netherwood of the Libertarian Party of Florida earned about 4 percent of the votes to score third place over write-in candidate Timothy J. Rossano.
According to the Lee County Supervisor of Elections Office, approximately 22 percent of the 354,979 registered voters in the county cast a ballot in the special general election - a total of 78,325.
Clawson garnered about 65 percent of the Lee votes, with Freeman taking about 31 percent. Again coming in at third, Netherwood had nearly 4 percent, while Rossano earned less than 1 percent.
"Southwest Florida has seen some tough times of late, from our economy to not having a voice in Congress,"?Clawson said in a prepared statement Tuesday night. "I am here tonight to say we have turned the corner and Southwest Florida is back."
Clawson added, "I plan to be the strong, conservative voice of Southwest Florida that represents everybody, and that starts tomorrow when we reopen our Congressional offices in Washing-ton, D.C., Cape Coral and Naples."
He went on to say, "I will advance the ideals we worked so hard for this spring as a priority: growing the economy by 5 percent annually, advancing the Mack Penny Plan and doing my part to represent you in restoring fiscal order in Washington."
"I don't really consider it a loss," Freeman said Tuesday. "I consider it a trial run."
"We're energized, and we're going to start campaigning again tomorrow," she added.
Freeman, as well as Clawson and the others, have qualified for November's race for the seat.
Earlier this year, Radel resigned following an arrest for possession of cocaine in Washington, D.C. Clawson will serve out the remainder of his two-year term, which runs through the year's end.
"We're going to continue doing what we did," Freeman said of her November campaign.
"It's time to stop sending special interest candidates to be the voice of the people," she added.
Rossano voiced little surprise Tuesday after the results came in.
"It's what I expected in this election," he said.
Rossano was pleased with the few hundred votes he pulled out.
"I didn't even expect to get that many," he said, pointing out that his campaign had less funding and was more grassroots that his opponents' efforts. "I'm happy with that and I'll build on that."
Heading into November, Rossano also intends to stick to the same game plan.
"I'm going to keep doing the same thing I'm doing," he said. "I'm in for the long haul."
"We're sending one more politician to Washington to do more of the same," Netherwood said in a statement Tuesday night. "I predict an implosion. I will be here in November to help put the pieces back together."
Clawson did not immediately returned phone calls before press time Tuesday.
Freeman noted the low voter turnout for the special election.
"We have a lot of issues in our district that affect everybody," she said. "We must do better, we can do better and we will do better in November."
Asked what Clawson's priorities should be upon taking office, Freeman said the people.
"I'd really like to see him do what's right for the district and not just what's right for the donors," she said. "Their main objective should be the people in this district."
Rossano called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and an impeachment of the president.
"If we don't, we're on the road to ruin," he said.
Both Freeman and Rossano thanked their family, friends and supporters.
"We'll do better on the next election," he said.
"I've had a fabulous campaign team," Freeman said.
"I want to thank the informed voters and all of the volunteers who gave countless hours of their lives to make the campaign chug along," Netherwood said. "It is a debt that I cannot repay."
Back in April, Clawson beat out fellow Republicans Lizbeth Benacquisto, Paige Kreegel and Michael John Dreikorn in the special primary election to win the party's nomination and move forward.
District 19 covers the Cape, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Bonita Springs and Naples.