By Chuck Ballaro
When U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-14) announced his intent to run for the U.S. Senate, it was "everybody in the pool" for his congressional seat.
Six GOP candidates qualified for the August primary, including two current state reps, a grassroots contender, a native son from Sanibel, and a man who has Mack's blessing to fill his seat.
After Aug. 14, there will be one remaining to face Democrat Jim Roach and Brandon M. Smith, no party affiliation, in the November election.
As Republicans all, the candidates' stances on the issues are similar. They believe government is bloated and broken and that the economy needs to be fixed through job creation and lowering the nation's debt.
They offer, however, some differing views on how to get there.
* Gary Aubuchon
Profession: real estate broker, homebuilder
City of residence: Cape Coral
Aubuchon, the current State Rep. in District 74, has served since 2006. He says it's time to send a conservative to Washington who will cut spending, balance the budget, reduce taxes and hold government accountable.
"The path our nation is heading in is wrong. I'm concerned about the mounting deficit and the lack of willingness of Congress to address it. My leadership experience in business, the community and in the legislature makes me uniquely qualified."
Aubuchon also advocates for term limits and eliminating congressional pensions, which he hopes will lead to breaking gridlock.
"It's time to reform the mentality of career politicians. In advocating this, I hope to break the gridlock that has paralyzed this Congress for four years," Aubuchon said. "We need to establish an atmosphere of respect in moving the nation forward to articulate a plan that America can believe in."
* Joe Davidow
City of residence: Naples
Davidow, like most of the candidates, said the political system in Washington is broken.
What sets him apart are two things, courage and capability, attributes that will allow him to effect change, Davidow said.
"I got into this race not because Connie Mack got out of the race, I got into this race to challenge Connie Mack, in essence portraying the courage to challenge your own party when you believe your own party is not getting the job done," he said.
Regarding capability, he cited his professional background.
"I'm an attorney, I have a sound and complete understanding of the law and the constitution, and the design of what the federal legislature is meant to do," Davidow said. "What I've done is develop my own platform and pillars, which is J-O-B-S, a detailed and holistic approach to stop the fiscal bleeding, allow free enterprise to grow, and prevent the problems from occurring again. I believe I am the only candidate among the six and the Democrat, with a plan that covers all of the maladies of the federal government and solutions for what will get done."
He is running because he is not happy with the current direction in Washington.
"Because I love this country and the plans before Congress are inefficient and inadequate and, based on constitutional principals, we can turn the direction and restore American prosperity in a very short amount of time," he said when asked why he is running.
* Byron Donalds
Profession: portfolio manager
City of residence: Naples
Donalds, born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., a Tea Party candidate, has a degree in finance from Florida State University, which he said makes him ideal for going to Washington.
"We won't have reform in Washington without persuading the average voter of the conservative approach," Donalds said. "What we're trying to do is what's best for the country."
Donalds, a grassroots candidate who has rapidly moved from being an unknown to a contender who has culled straw poll recognition, isn't worried he doesn't have the major endorsements, saying they have been part of the problem.
"I've never net Paul Ryan or Jeb Bush or Connie Mack. We've been listening to this political class for 50 to 100 years. Where has that taken us?" Donalds asked. "We are where we are because of who's been here. People need someone who makes sense. I make sense."
* Chauncey Porter Goss
Profession: Fiscal Policy Analyst, budgeting
City of Residence: Sanibel
Goss has had a lifelong exposure to politics. His father, Porter, was the former director of the CIA and U.S. Rep. of Florida in the 14th District.
Goss, who has the endorsement of former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan, for whom he's worked, said he never thought he would get involved with politics, even though he's been around it his whole life.
"I was always involved in policy. This is the first thing I've run for," Goss said. "I have three sons, and we're setting them up for failure."
Goss said the reason he's running is to serve his district and represent that constituency well.
"They need someone watching over them, to advocate and be a community member. I can do that," Goss said. "I know how Washington works and can hit the ground running in entitlement reform, reducing regulations on business and controlling our debt."
* Paige Kreegel
Profession: doctor, citrus farmer
City of Residence: Punta Gorda
Kreegel, the current State Rep. in District 72, which covers DeSoto and parts of Lee and Charlotte counties, has served since 2004.
Considering his background, it shouldn't be any surprise the main item is the repeal of Obamacare.
"It's a poor, big-government solution to a problem. Forcing someone to buy something is as un-American as you can get," Kreegel said. "But what comes after? We need as many doctors at the table to come up with something that works."
Kreegel, endorsed by Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, said the main issue is jobs and the economy, and he won't let peer pressure persuade him.
"It's the same thing from the Keys to Seattle. We need to get back to what our founding fathers intended," Kreegel said. "I learned in Tallahassee that to go with the flow and push the green button isn't the answer."
* Trey Radel
Occupation: TV radio personality, entrepreneur
City of Residence: Fort Myers
Listeners of Radel's morning talk show know exactly what's on his mind. A Tea Party favorite who has received the endorsement of Connie Mack to fill his seat, Radel seeks to return America as an entrepreneurial leader, being one himself.
"We need to return to free markets and get government out of the way. Both parties have failed us in Washington. Once we let entrepreneurs do what they do best, we'll grow the economy," Radel said.
Radel, who said the biggest threat to the nation's security is our debt, is also succinct when he explains why he chose to run for Congress.
"I'm tired of talking about our problems instead of doing something," Radel said. "To move forward, we need two groups of people to convince, the American people and Congress, including Democrats."