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Curt Clawson speaks at his election party on Tuesday evening in Bonita Springs.
Curt Clawson speaks at his election party on Tuesday evening in Bonita Springs. / AMANDA INSCORE/THE NEWS-PRESS

He shoots, he scores — again.

Winning more than two-thirds of the vote, Republican Curt Clawson on Tuesday became Southwest Florida’s next U.S. representative.

Marco Island helped cement Clawson’s victory. He snagged 80.15 percent of the 922 votes with 739 votes in Precinct 190; 80.02 percent of the 1,211 with 969 votes in Precinct 193, and 79.39 percent of the 1,116 votes in Precinct 194.

By contrast, Democratic candidate April Freeman scored 16.43 percent, 16.13 percent and 21.55 percent in those precincts respectively, while Libertarian Ray Netherwood’s percentages were 3.3, 4.21 and 3.58.

Overall, Clawson received 66.9 percent of the votes in the District 19 special congressional election, followed by Freeman with 29.2 percent and Netherwood with 3.6 percent.

“I think he’s going to do a good job,” said Litha Berger, Marco-based Caxambas Republican Club founder and former president.

She said she’d met Clawson some months before he won the special congressional District 19 Republican primary with 26,710 votes, or about 38 percent of the vote in Collier and Lee counties.

“He asked to be a member of the club. I didn’t know who he was, and I thought it interesting why someone coming from Bonita wanted to join,” Berger said.

“Then I met him, and he told me he was actively looking at getting into politics. I got to know him very well,” she said.

Berger said she, like most people, Republican or Democrat, felt “taken aback by the nastiness” in the negative campaigning that ensued at the time.

“Many people thought it severely hurt the Republican Party,” Berger said, “but I felt that the outcome was a very good one.”

“Make no mistake, I don’t think what we’ve done here is a game,” Clawson said in his victory speech to supporters, referencing the college basketball past that characterized his campaign. “My team and I will go to Washington and work our very hardest for Southwest Florida and for our country.”

Clawson left Wednesday morning for Washington, D.C., to be sworn in.

After the special election was announced in January when Trey Radel resigned in the wake of his cocaine scandal, Clawson went from an unknown who could shoot a basketball to a political powerhouse, attracting support from Southwest Florida’s Republican and tea party stalwarts such as former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV and ex-congressional candidate Byron Donalds.

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This isn’t the last time Clawson, Freeman and Netherwood will face off: They have all qualified for the Nov. 4 regular election for Clawson’s seat.

That’s a comfort to Freeman, who said Tuesday by phone she believes November will be a “whole different race.”

“I wish we had a larger turnout. I think the results would have been more in my favor,” she said. “In November, mostly everybody will be back ... but we have the numbers now to move forward.”

Just 23 percent of District 19 voters in Collier County and 22 percent in Lee County voted in the race. In comparison, the Republican primary had a turnout of 35 percent.

Only a small number of that came from voters at the polls Tuesday. Early ballots accounted for 7,276 votes, while the around 75,000 mail-in ballots returned made up the majority of votes.

Netherwood did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday night.

Clawson's win was not a surprise.

For the past half-century, Southwest Florida has been staunchly Republican, and there are far more registered members of that party than Democrats. It has been decades since a Democrat received more votes than a Republican in Lee and Collier counties for any race.

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