If Fitzgerald runs, he should have rich target in opposing Vern Buchanan

Buchanan is no stranger to the CREW list, having previously been named by the D.C. based watchdog on their 2008 and 2009 lists.

Although it's been awhile now since stories were reported in both the St. Pete Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Buchanan was accused during his first run for office of shaking down employees for campaign contributions, then bundling those contributions, a violation of campaign finance laws.

In June, the Federal Election Commission announced it had closed its case against Buchanan, and would refrain from taking any action over the allegations that had he knowingly accepted illegal campaign contributions. But in 2010 the FEC had said that it had found "reason to believe'' that he had violated federal law that bans candidates from knowingly receiving contributions made in someone else's name.

Although it seems like a hundred years ago, Buchanan barely won the Congressional seat when it first became open after Katherine Harris opted not to run for re-election in 2006 (and we all know how that turned out for her).

Buchanan officially won by 369 votes over Democrat Christine Jennings, who sued after he was declared the winner, claiming that there was a "pervasive malfunctioning" of touch-screen voting machines in the election. In fact there were some 18,000 ballots in the district that were "undervotes," with voters choosing neither candidate in the highly contested race.

A statistical analysis done in 2008 by Arlene Ash and John Lamperti concluded that:

While poor ballot design may or maynot fully account for the Sarasota undervote, it is clear that
those missing votes switched the outcome of the congressional race from Jennings to Buchanan.

But as earlier reported, that seems like a lifetime ago. Buchanan was not seriously challenged in the past two elections, easily beating a rematch with Jennings in 2008, and he thrashed Democrat James T. Golden in 2010.

Fitzgerald figures to be much more competitive - if he decides to get into the race.

Vern Buchanan
  • Vern Buchanan

Former Sarasota House Democrat Keith Fitzgerald says he will announce on Thursday whether or not he'll run for the nomination to oppose Republican incumbent Vern Buchanan in the Florida Congressional District 13 race next year (the district encompasses all of Sarasota, DeSoto, and Hardee counties and most of Manatee County).

If he can raise sufficient money, Fitzgerald should be a very viable candidate to try to swing the district blue, as Fitzgerald's center-left political philosophy should mesh well with the 13th's moderate reputation.

And in Vern Buchanan, a man you might recall who was initially elected in 2006 under controversial standards, hasn't exactly been a paragon of ethics, if you believe the group CREW, or Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who in a recent report said of Buchanan,

Witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and bribery are all in a day’s work for the ethically challenged Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.