Vern Buchanan draws “practical liberal” challenger for Sarasota CD16

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A self-described “practical liberal” has announced he will challenge U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s re-election to Congress.

Mitch Mallett, a Bradenton Democrat who hosted the “It’s your Gavel” radio talk show, said he would apply to run for the 16th Congressional District, which covers Sarasota and most of Manatee Counties, according to Jeremy Wallace in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

“I’ve been involved in politics for a long time,” said Mallett. “I think I would be a good congressman.”

Since 2000, Mallett was involved with the Manatee Democratic Party, and he says that experience gave him a firm grasp of the issues. If he can get his message out, then Mallett feels confident he will win over voters.

Higher minimum wage, which would reduce dependence on government programs like food stamps by the working poor, is one of Mallet’s top issues, he told the Herald-Tribune.

Although he filed papers to run for the office, as of Friday the Federal Election Commission website has not yet posted Mallett’s statement of candidacy — the official document required to run for federal office.

This will be the first time Mallett has run for elected office, and if he does qualify, it will certainly be an uphill battle. As a four-term incumbent, Buchanan spent $2.6 million to win re-election in 2012, beating Sarasota Democrat Keith Fitzgerald.

Mallett hopes to win in what is considered a solidly Republican-leaning district, an area where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats. There are 210,000 Republicans versus about 155,000 Democrats in the 16th congressional district. Nearly 100,000 more voters have registered with either another party or no party affiliation.

Mallett’s radio show ran for years on Bradenton-based WWPR 1490 A.M. Now the show is available on the web at blogtalkradio.com.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.