The following Republicans are running for the U.S. District 14 seat being vacated by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers:
Gary Aubuchon, Venice
Joseph Asher Davidow, Naples
Byron Donalds, Naples
Chauncey Goss, Sanibel Island
Paige Vanier Kreegel, Port Charlotte
Brian Owens, Naples
Trey Radel, Fort Myers
Timothy John Rossano, Fort Myers
Christopher Key Sandy, Bonita Springs
John W. Sawyer III, Fort Myers
Lee James Titchworth, Cape Coral
The following Democrats are running for the U.S. District 14 seat being vacated by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers:
James Lloyd Roach, Cape Coral
The following candidates with no party affiliation are running for the U.S. District 14 seat being vacated by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers:
Thomas E. Scherer, Estero
Brandon Matthew Smith, Naples
A crowded Congressional race has candidates battling for elbow room to make sure their message is heard.
With just more than three months before the August 14 primary, some election experts said candidates with name recognition and a healthy war chest are the ones who will likely succeed in a jam-packed race.
Fourteen candidates — 11 Republicans, one Democrat and two with no party affiliation — are vying to replace U.S. Congressman Connie Mack, who gave up his seat to run for Senate. The winner of the Republican primary could garner only 10 percent of the vote.
"It creates such a challenging dynamic. There's so many people in the mix, and the winner comes away with a small percentage of the vote," said John Knowles, an elections expert and spokesman at Ave Maria School of Law. "What you're seeing at this stage in the campaign is everyone is trying to make the case that they stand out from the pack. You try to make the case why you're the one."
That might mean doing anything from touting prior experience in elected office to private sector accomplishments or boasting about being a Washington outsider to using experience as a Beltway insider to their advantage.
But distinguishing oneself from the pack may not be enough, said Peter Bergerson, a political-science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. Bergerson said it will take three charteristics — experience, name recognition and organization — for one of the 11 to pull ahead come election day.
"One of the things that I think is going to make a difference is name recognition and the role of political elites," he said.
Endorsements will likely be important as voters try to narrow the field. Bergerson said endorsements from lifelong party members or local elected officials, like county commissioners, will be "one of the things to watch closely" as election day approaches.
Name recognition will also be important, especially Bergerson said when there's nearly a dozen candidates on the ballot. Still, he said, that doesn't mean the person with the most money, experience or name recognition will necessarily come out on top.
"My estimation is it's going to be as close as the Kentucky Derby was on Saturday," he said. "You may have someone who comes from close to the middle of the pack ... two of the candidates may split the vote and a third may come across the finish line."
And crossing the finish line just means getting the most votes come August 14, said Timothy Durham, Collier County's deputy chief election supervisor.
No runoff will be held and Durham said whoever "garners the most votes" in August will move on to the November election.
The same rules apply to the November election where the winner of the Republican primary will face a Democrat and two candidates running with no party affiliation.
Both Bergerson and Knowles said the crowded Republican field likely won't be a benefit to the either the Democrat or no party affiliation candidates either. Despite a myriad Republicans to choose from, both men said the congressional district is still overwhelmingly Republican and a candidate who isn't a Republican will likely have little chance of winning the general election.
"The Democratic candidate is hopeful and earnest, but (being) hopeful and earnest doesn't win the election," Bergerson said.