Florida’s GOP bench for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat just got one smaller as U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan took his name out of contention for 2016.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports the Longboat Key Republican plans to announce that he will instead focus on re-election to the House, where his tenure makes him a key voice on taxation and international trade.
“The decision came down to where I could make the biggest difference in serving Florida and improving the lives of the middle class,” Buchanan said in a statement Thursday. “And the answer was pretty clear — as a senior member on the committee that oversees the tax code, Social Security, Medicare and international trade.
“It is the highest privilege and honor to represent the people of Florida’s 16th District and I look forward to continue serving as their representative in Washington,” he added.
Buchanan, 63, is serving in his fifth term in the House and is a member of Trade and Health Subcommittees on Ways and Means. He is also on the House Budget Committee and is co-chair of the 29-member Florida congressional delegation.
Among the other Republicans officially bowing out of the Senate race include former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney and the state’s chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater.
So far, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is the only declared major party candidate. Although he is not as well known statewide, strong fundraising puts the 32-year-old Jupiter Democrat, a CPA by trade, on the list as a strong contender.
As 2016 is a presidential cycle, Democrats anticipate a traditionally higher turnout. Since 2000, Republicans have lost two out of three Senate contests, with an average of less than 47 percent of the vote.
Like Murphy, Buchanan’s strong fundraising is something that appeals to his party, reporter Jeremy Wallace notes. Buchanan is a businessman who at one time owned 20 car dealerships and served as former finance chair of the Republican National Congressional Committee. As such, he maintains a national donor network that would have proved valuable in a race that many expect to top $50 million.