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Donalds, Banyai campaign heats up

By NATHAN MAYBERG - | May 24, 2022

Congressman Byron Donalds, who was nominated as Speaker of the House Wednesday as an alternative to Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, has congratulated the congressman from California who finally was named speaker after a contentious 15 rounds of balloting.

The rematch for the 19th Congressional District representing most of Lee County, including Fort Myers Beach, is taking off with sharp — and diametrically opposed — political rhetoric from incumbent Byron Donalds (R-Naples) and challenger Cindy Banyai (D-Fort Myers).

Donalds, who comfortably won election to the House of Representatives in 2020, held a virtual town hall last week where he took questions from constituents online and declared “Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional,” and called for securing the border, among other stances.

On abortion, Donalds said the previous “court pulled it together out of thin air.” There is no right to privacy that allows for abortion in the U.S. Constitution, Donalds said. Each state will make a decision on abortion.

Banyai, who was in Fort Myers Beach over the weekend for a rally in support of clean, renewable energy and to oppose offshore drilling at an event organized by the Sierra Club, said she opposed the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I believe that freedom means nobody needs to provide an explanation for their private medical decisions,” Banyai said. “The (potential) overturning of Roe v. Wade is a threat to women’s bodily autonomy and equality.

The border crisis, Donalds said, “is out of control.” He said the fentanyl drug crisis is directly tied to the immigration issue at the Mexico border.

“We need to secure the border,” he said. “We need to complete the wall.”

Banyai said “immigrants make the U.S. a vibrant place and add to our economy.” Banyai said better immigration policies are needed and decried the “fearmongering” in the immigration debate.

Asked about the recent Buffalo mass shooting where 10 people were killed in a supermarket, eight of whom were Black, Donalds said he believes the racial motivations of the shooter were being unfairly focused on compared to the motivations of other recent mass violence incidents such as a subway shooting in New York City and a rampage at a Christmas parade in Wisconsin.

Donalds also blamed New York gun control laws, in part, for the shooting and said gun control laws in other states were in part to blame for mass shootings there.

“The shooter realized they would have little resistance from victims,” he said. He alleged that the shooter in Buffalo picked the location because it was in a “gun free zone.”

Banyai said the “white supremacist creed” of the shooter should be the focus, along with better teaching of the nation’s historic racial policies and “more common sense gun laws.”

On the economy, Donalds said he is trying to get on the financial services committee to make sure small businesses have accesss to capital and wants to support more community banks. “Southwest Florida used to have 80 community banks,” he said. Now, he said there were only a handful. “If you go to a big bank, they will take your deposit money but that’s not a business relationship.”

On affordable housing, Donalds said he is being supportive for the Fort Myers Housing Authority. He said county commissioners have more control over the availability of affordable housing through zoning.

Inflation has made the cost of housing more expensive, he said.

As for Saturday’s rally, Banyai said she was “really proud to stand in solidarity with the Sierra Club and for the right to clean water and to support the fight against climate change and the right we all have to enjoy nature.”