As teenager and into her early twenties, Republican state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto was briefly a Democrat. And raising that decades-old issue is what the Florida 19th Congressional District hopeful calls a “desperate tactic from a failing candidate.”
A party switch is nothing new in politics; even the most highly regarded Republican of the 20th Century had a change of heart to align with his core conservative beliefs.
“Ronald Reagan was a Democrat until he was over 50 years-old,” says spokesperson Erin Isaac. “(Lizbeth) found the wisdom of Constitutional conservatism much faster than that.”
Benacquisto, who currently serves as State Senate Majority Leader, registered as a Democrat in high school, following the lead of several family members.
It certainly didn’t stick.
Isaac explains that as soon as the Fort Myers resident became a mother, started working, paying taxes, she learned the profound impact of public policy on people’s lives. It was then the future Senator realized her beliefs on individual freedom and small government were largely consistent with Ronald Reagan’s conservatism.
“So, following the example of a man who Lizbeth sees as one of the greatest leaders in the history of this nation, she became a Republican.”
Since 1995, Benacquisto has been registered with the GOP.
Isaac points out that, in subsequent decades, the majority Leader remained consistent in her unwavering commitment for GOP and Republican causes. While in the Florida Legislature, her record has been staunchly conservative, a reliable Republican vote. Benacquisto continues to be fiercely proud to serve as the leader of the State Senate’s Republican caucus and feels she has earned the respect and support of Republican voters in Southwest Florida.
“We know these voters, friends, and colleagues recognize this stunt for what it is; a desperate tactic from a failing candidate,” Isaac counters.
A recent blog post questions Benacquisto’s husband, Bruce Strayhorn, and his donations to Democratic causes in the past, something she maintains is “irrelevant” to her personal conservative ideology.
“In fact,” she adds, “she is so dedicated to expanding the Republican ranks that before they were married, Lizbeth convinced her husband to join the GOP.”
“Lizbeth has been a Republican most of her adult life, and 15 years before Curt Clawson sent big bucks to a liberal Democrat, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.”
Only a few months after Clawson’s contribution, Isaac notes, Stabenow cast the deciding vote to approve Obamacare.