Congressional clash: Donalds & Banyai
In the rematch of the 2020 election between Congressman Byron Donalds (R-19) and Democratic Party candidate Cindy Banyai, the political differences are as stark as the differences in the funding for their campaigns.
Donalds, who coasted to a victory in the 2020 election with 61% of the vote, enjoys a fundraising advantage of more than 50-1 which is emblematic of the advantage the Republican Party has in the district.
The district covers most of Lee County and Collier County.
Banyai will need a big boost Tuesday, Nov. 8 to defeat an incumbent who has raised approximately $5.4 million for the race, his first time defending the seat which was previously held by Francis Rooney. Banyai has reported approximately $100,000 in contributions.
“I think it’s an important election because we are very close to losing our democracy,” Banyai said.
Donalds said he believes Congress will act to approve funding for local governments and the state to cover losses and other expenditures related to Hurricane Ian, including transportation projects such as the Sanibel Causeway repairs. Donalds said one of the keys to the Hurricane Ian response will be helping people navigate their flood insurance.
“Hurricane Ian has devastated Southwest Florida and we are still feeling the effects today,” Banyai said. Banyai said she raised funds and purchased items and distributed them to North Fort Myers, South Naples and Pine island.
“We are still in for a long haul,” Banyai said. “I think we are all in for a tough time economically because we have not done enough to diversify our economy so we are not solely reliant on tourism,” Banyai said.
Banyai said FEMA was doing what it can. “I don’t know if our state and local officials have been requesting what’s needed because they would rather pretend like everything is OK.”
Banyai attacked Donalds for voting against a stopgap funding bill last month which included $18.8 billion in funding for FEMA.
“Every American should have the right to choose when and where to have a family. Every American has the right to medical privacy and that the government shouldn’t be stepping in between a person and their doctor to make health care decisions,” Banyai said.
Donalds said the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned Roe v. Wade, made clear that abortion was a state’s rights decision. “There is no federal role for abortion anymore,” he said.
Jan. 6 and certification of presidential election
Banyai called Donalds an “election denier” for voting against the certification of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania following the riots in the Capitol on Jan. 6. Banyai called Donalds a “severe threat to our democracy” for his “complete and utter allegiance to Donald Trump” and votes against certifying the 2020 presidential election. Banyai said she was concerned by what she says is the closeness of Donalds to Trump, who she noted is under investigation over his handling of classified documents. “Anybody who puts themselves so firmly and so happily in that camp is a danger to the American people,” Banyai said.
Donalds has defended his votes against certifying the results in Arizona, which he said was over the state’s change in election procedure, and in Pennsylvania – where he opposed the state’s allowance of late mail-in ballots to be counted.
Donalds called Banyai’s criticism of him as an election-denier to be “silly.” Donalds said challenging election results has been done before by Democrats in state elections.
Donalds said he voted against red flag laws and other gun control initiatives touted as safety measures.
“It hurts law-abiding citizens,” he said.
“We deserve to live in safe communities with safe schools,” Banyai said. “We do have a right to bear arms and the 2nd Amendment. It’s the responsibility of the government to make sure these are guns are restricted.” Banyai supports more background checks and red flag laws.
Donalds believes more has to be done to secure the border with Mexico. The U.S. has documented stopping more than two million migrants at the border this year. Donalds believes that drug cartels are pushing fentanyl across the border through illegal immigration. Donalds said he opposed the policies which grant asylum to some immigrants. He said he also supported the actions of Gov. Ron DeSantis in taking migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts by plane.
She accused Donalds of using “fearmongering” as part of an anti-immigration agenda. Banyai said Southwest Florida had a large Hispanic population with many who are migrants or second-generation migrants.
“Florida has a lot of migrants in it. We don’t have a land border. Most people who are migrating to the U.S. with legitimate documentation are landing by plane,” Banyai said.
Donalds has been vocal about stating there is a need to develop more in areas deemed as sensitive environmentally. Donalds has been on record saying he believes there are too many panthers –which are considered among the most endangered animals in the U.S. He also has supported a new bear hunt.
Banyai said the federal government should provide funding to preserve sensitive habitats such as those near the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
A number of developments are currently slated to be built near the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge in Collier County.
“If you don’t have developments, people’s rent will continue to rise,” Donalds said.
“I think it’s terrible. I am a regular-working mom. I feel the effects of inflation everyday. The price of food, the price of meet, housing. I got caught up in the housing crisis like thousands of other Southwest Floridians. I think that we need in Washington D.C. people-first policies not corporate-first, not profit-first policies which is exactly what we have with Byron Donalds.”
Banyai said Donalds “doesn’t know the struggle of people here.”
Donalds said he is hoping to get on the financial services committee in the House of Representatives and work on a financial regulation bill to reform the Federal Reserve so that it was focused on price stability.