Good Map For Buchanan? It Should Be.

Under The Hood

Photo courtesy Twitter: Vern Buchanan speaks at a Veterans Day event in Sarasota.

The release of potential congressional maps for the midterms seemed to deliver excellent news for Vern Buchanan. Campaign officials liked draft maps coming out of the Senate Reapportionment Committee staff, maps that presented the best news in how little news they made.

Florida’s U.S. House District 16 on all four draft proposals looks, well, pretty much like it looks today. For an incumbent who has won three elections under those lines, that’s a good thing. “Congressionally, Vern Buchanan is one of the early winners,” said Max Goodman, a campaign consultant who has worked with Buchanan since his first run for Congress.

The little change proposed includes shedding swingy parts of Hillsborough County in exchange for more of Sarasota County — parts which are more reliably Republican. “He picks up more of the “red” section of Sarasota County that he represented when he was initially elected to Congress,” Goodman said.

A demonstration? Buchanan in 2020 beat Democrat Margaret Good by 11 percentage points, but in Hillsborough he only beat her by three points. By comparison, he beat her by five in Sarasota, and that was in arguably the bluest section of the county. And Buchanan keeps all of deep red Manatee. Despite being targeted by national Democrats the last two election cycles, the district as it exists today is probably Buchanan country until he’s ready to retire. And it just got friendlier for him.

Unless.

Two days after these awesome winds, there seemed a minor quake in politics that could ignite a fringe base that could create a threat to Buchanan from the right, not the left. Mike Flynn, a former national security advisor to former President Trump who has become a bit of a leader on the far-far right, moved to Englewood recently and started to cultivate a cluster of crazy in south Sarasota County. And he just endorsed Martin Hyde, the anti-establishment candidate challenging Buchanan in a Republican primary.

Flynn has been as controversial a figure in local politics as on the national scene. His presence elevated an anti-vaccine event earlier this year when some doctors were handing out medical exemptions for school mask mandates like Halloween candy. Still, many traditional political leaders I know still consider Flynn and company as extremists of questionable influence.

In Buchanan world, the idea Hyde could ride a right-wing surge has been routinely dismissed. He lacks outside funding and a political record of success. Besides, Buchanan has faced Tea Party challengers before and done well, a sign the conservative flank of the party trusts the incumbent.

One wonders the effect as his boundary slinks back south into areas represented now by Rep. Greag Stebe, R-Sarasota. That congressman, whose district is set to became as rural as ever, has downplayed insurrectionists at the Capitol as trespassers. He voted against certifying Joe Biden’s win for president after the riots, while Buchanan did not. I’m guessing these moves, while controversial, have the support of his district, part of which will likely become Buchanan’s district.

I hope this is all an illusion. That insurrection hasn’t become something cool, and that the embrace of extreme conspiracy theorists isn’t something that can change the dynamics of a Sarasota area Republican primary.

By all traditional measures, Buchanan just had a very good week. He should seem a heavier favorite today than he already was a month ago. The question is if political tradition is out the window. It will be next August before we know for sure.

Jacob Ogles is SRQ MEDIA contributing senior editor.

Photo courtesy Twitter: Vern Buchanan speaks at a Veterans Day event in Sarasota.

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