"I'm running for Congress to be a true public servant and the leader Southwest Florida deserves. I'm fighting for our water, our health, our kids, our jobs, and our community! I'm a teacher, a mom, and a small business owner. I've been a decorated professional in the field of community development for almost 20 years, collaborating with nonprofits around the world on issues such as homelessness, addiction, education, and sustainable development. I truly do believe in my slogan, that together we can create a Southwest Florida where the sun shines on everyone."
Who Is Cindy Banyai?
Dr. Cindy Banyai ran for Congress in 2020 because, at some point, you have to realize that you can’t wait for someone else to fight for you. That race shocked Southwest Florida. Cindy successfully raised over $200,000 as a first-time candidate in an R+13 district and closed the gap from the last presidential cycle with over a 4.6% increase in the Dem vote.
Cindy didn’t stop after 2020. It didn’t matter that Far-Right Trump supporters like the Proud Boys, Roger Stone, and the Freedom Caucus made a point of creating Byron Donalds as the face of Black Conservatism that would vote against the 2020 Election and join the Sedition Caucus. Cindy knew that Byron had only won the Republican primary in 2020 by 770 votes --- and that the people wanted a real representative, not a national patsy for Far-Right talking points.
Cindy Banyai the fighter goes all the way back to her childhood. She watched her young parents struggle and sacrifice to give her opportunities to grow and chase her education dreams. As an undergraduate, Cindy studied international relations and psychology at Michigan State University. During this time, Cindy debuted as a pro boxer in 2000, then completed her bachelor’s degree in 2002. She interned twice in Congress, with both Democratic and Republican leaders, before taking an opportunity to travel to Asia. Once overseas, Cindy completed a Master’s and Ph.D. from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan with her research focusing on community development, public administration, evaluation, and governance. During this time abroad living in Japan, Cindy also competed as a sponsored pro boxer from 2005 to 2009. This sport taught her how to prepare for a fight, plan her attacks, anticipate her opponent and use those advantages to win.
When she returned to the US, Cindy moved to Southwest Florida and settled in the community she had come to love. She grew her family --- adding three kids and pets as she built a life back in the states. Cindy has never strayed from being hands-on involved in the neighborhoods and with the people she cares about.
Cindy teaches courses on American Government and global issues at a local university, while also serving in leadership roles in regional non-profits. She has also founded her own small business to provide organizational and management consulting to businesses across the globe.
She received the Donald W. Littrell New Professional Award in 2015 from the Community Development Society for her work on regional initiatives at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and for her commitment to community-based advocacy organizations such as BikeWalkLee. Dr. Banyai continues to serve the field of community development as the President of the Community Development Society and representative to the United Nations for International Association for Community Development, an NGO with UN consultative status.
Through her consulting work, Dr. Banyai has worked with civil society leaders and government officials from more than 25 countries. Recently she focused on crafting an evaluation culture in Southwest Florida working with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. She also worked to institutionalize evaluation in governments and nonprofits around the world through technical assistance for the Japan International Cooperation Agency. There she helped national and local government actors in Nepal, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Greater Africa, Tunisia, and Chile. In recognition of her evaluation work, she received the 2018 Evaluation Advocacy and Use Practice Award from the American Evaluation Association.