Two White House veterans with lots of foreign policy experience — both from outside Volusia and Flagler counties — will face off in the Nov. 6 general election to represent the area in Congress.
Democrat Nancy Soderberg and Republican Michael Waltz won their parties’ primary elections Tuesday after overcoming attacks on each by other candidates from inside Volusia County who called them outsiders to the four counties that comprise Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
They will vie to replace Ron DeSantis, the three-term congressman who won the Republican primary for governor Tuesday.
Soderberg, 60, earned the title of ambassador while serving in the Clinton administration in the 1990s. A University of North Florida professor who rented a home in Crescent Beach to claim residency in the district, she earned 56 percent to John Upchurch’s 23 and Stephen Sevigny’s 22 percent in the Democratic primary.
Waltz topped 42 percent of the Republican vote in the district, and won about the same percentage in Volusia County. John Ward, a Ponte Vedra Beach investor, and Ormond Beach dentist Fred Costello followed with 30 and 27 percent, respectively.
On the Democrat side, Soderberg raised at least $1.7 million, almost double the amount Sevigny had collected through Aug. 8, the latest Federal Election Commission reporting period.
Soderberg celebrated her victory at Rock Bottom Brewery in Daytona Beach and said her message of health care as a right, good jobs in the district and improved education was crafted from listening to residents.
“I got in this race 14 months ago and that’s what I kept hearing over and over,” Soderberg said. “That’s what their major concern was, and I think my background as a fighter with experience who can get things done was the winning message.”
Universal health care was a value shared by her Democrtic opponents, particularly Sevigny, an Ormond Beach radiologist who said he was proud of a campaign that did not go negative.
“I got in the race knowing it was going to be an uphill battle based on the amount of national endorsements and national support Ambassador Soderberg had,” Sevigny said. “I thought District 6 deserved a representative who was from District 6 (and) was going to put the citizens of District 6 first, with the primary focus on health care.”
Sevigny and Upchurch, an Ormond Beach lawyer and travel agency owner, both attempted to appeal to voters by emphasizing their local ties to Volusia County, but that strategy wasn’t enough. Similarly, in a third attempt at a congressional seat, Costello failed to overcome his Republican opponents’ big money advantages.
Waltz celebrated with his supporters at Houligan’s in Daytona Beach.
He is a 44-year-old veteran who served in the Green Berets before becoming a top national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney in the Bush White House. More recently, he has led an international security firm and appeared on Fox News frequently as a contributor. He co-owns a home in St. Augustine Beach, just outside the District 6 boundary. Waltz could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Through Aug. 8, Waltz and Ward had each topped $1 million in contributions.
Costello — by contrast — had raised $255,000, which he said was a factor in Waltz’s victory.
He said he’ll support Waltz as the nominee, because he fears a Democrat will move toward impeaching President Trump. But Costello said he was disappointed in attacks on his record, particularly labeling him as a liberal.
“No. 1, money talks. Negative campaigning is likely the future because it works. There’s no need to tell the truth. Say whatever it takes to win,” Costello said. “People believe what they see on TV and what they read.”
Ward called it a “privilege and an honor” to run and thanked his supporters.
“I’d like to congratulate Mike Waltz on his win in a hard-fought race and wish him the very best of luck in the general election against the Democrat nominee,” Ward said. “Our country is at a critical moment in its history and it is vital that we as Republicans get behind our party’s nominee and work hard to beat the Democrats in November.”
Originally posted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.