Underdog Making Move in Governor's Race

Vern Buchanan at a campaign rally in 2007
Vern Buchanan at a campaign rally in 2007
Flickr User: BYU-I CR

Vern Buchanan has been a name bandied about in discussions over those two big political job openings in 2010 -- U.S. Senator and Florida Governor. But the Republican congressman from Sarasota is not very familiar to voters across the state, and for the last few months he's looked a bit like an also-ran... until now.

Sarasota Herald Tribune columnist Jeremy Wallace reports that Buchanan is the only candidate for either office that has received a campaign contribution from incumbent U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, the Republican who is stepping down next year. And that's just one high-profile name on a long list of donors who gave Buchanan over a half-million dollars in the first quarter of 2009, a figure that dwarfs that of all other Florida congress members.

Considering Buchanan has already said he won't enter the U.S. Senate race to challenge Crist, who's expected to make that campaign official in the next few weeks, Buchanan must have his eyes squarely on Tallahassee. But that's also the position that Attorney General Bill McCollum is gunning for. If Buchanan's fund-raising totals are any indication, there are some rich, powerful Republican interests who not enamored with McCollum and are eager to knock him off his early lead in polls. Might there be a split between Crist Republicans in Florida and those in the national party still fuming about the gov's making nice with Obama?

That leaves a decision for Florida Democrats, who have been nipping at McCollum: Call off the dogs in hopes the two Republicans will attack one another, leaving more campaign money for the general election; or invest in a bit of anti-Buchanan material in case he emerges from the scrum as the frontrunner.

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