Freeman won't challenge Clawson, instead she's challenging Rooney in 17.

Democratic congressional candidate April Freeman---who lost to U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs in the last election and immediately launched a challenge to his re-election next year---said she is ending that campaign.

Instead, Freeman will run for Congress in District 17, which includes parts of north and east Lee County as well as Charlotte, Polk, DeSoto and other mostly rural inland counties, and is now held by Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican from Okeechobee.

Meanwhile, another Democrat, this one with a Fort Lauderdale post office box, has filed to run in District 19 against Clawson.

Valencia St. Louis Larose filed papers Dec. 3 for the seat; no other information was available.

“I want to go to Washington to make a difference, and I think a candidate like myself has a better chance of doing that in District 17,” Freeman said Thursday.

District 17’s boundaries changed under a new congressional district map the courts approved earlier this week. The redrawing was ordered after courts ruled months ago that the last redistricting violated gerrymandering rules.

While the district remains favorable for Republicans, the changes made it somewhat less so than before. The last Democrat who challenged Rooney in the former district got about 42 percent of the vote with virtually no money and a low profile race, and Freeman said she’s proven she can raise more funds and wage a credible active, campaign.

“I’d been thinking about this for a while,” Freeman said. “Then the new map was approved, and while it’s not a huge change, it does make some differences.”

She can keep and use the money she’s already raised, and she is not legally required to live in the district. Freeman, a Cape Coral resident, said she now lives near the line, but she may end up moving deeper inside the district because of family matters.

District 19, which includes most of Lee and the populated parts of Collier, is considered a safe seat for the GOP. No Democrat for Congress has won the area in about 50 years. It’s been almost 30 years since a Democrat won a major partisan race in Collier, and almost 20 years since it’s happened in Lee.

The new congressional map, meanwhile, made no changes in Lee and Collier’s District 19.

Southwest Florida’s biggest change may be seen in Hendry County, which was previously split in half horizontally and divided between two congressional districts dominated by east coast areas.

The new map makes Hendry whole and part of District 20 that includes eastern Collier and western Miami-Dade, now held by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

Betty Parker is a freelance writer specializing in politics. This is one item from her column that appears in Saturday's The News-Press and at