Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2006, 4th term.

Born: May 8, 1951, Detroit, MI

Home: Longboat Key, FL

Education: Cleary U., B.B.A. 1975, U. of Detroit, M.B.A. 1986

Professional Career: Taekwondo instructor, 1971-74; Marketing representative, Burroughs Corp., 1975-76; Founder, Vern Buchanan and Associates, 1976-78; Founder and CEO, American Speedy Printing Centers, 1976-92; Founder and chmn., Buchanan Automotive Group, 1992-2007; Founder and chmn., Buchanan Enterprises, 1992-2007.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Baptist

Family: Married (Sandra Harris) , 2 children

Vern Buchanan, a Republican first elected in 2006, is the survivor of a couple unusually tough reelection campaigns, but the pain has been mostly self-inflicted. His business dealings and campaign finances have attracted the notice of both federal investigators and Democratic challengers.

Buchanan grew up outside of Detroit, the eldest of six children and the son of a factory foreman. He joined the Michigan Air National Guard and worked his way through college as a tae kwon do instructor. He earned a business degree at Cleary University and later an M.B.A. at the University of Detroit. Buchanan founded American Speedy Printing Centers and made his fortune by selling 700 quick-printing franchises before his 40th birthday. In 1990, he moved his family to Florida, where he found new success as an automobile dealer with franchises throughout the Southeast. Buchanan became active in Republican Party politics, serving as a top fundraiser for Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Mel Martinez. In 2002, he wanted to run for the 13th District House seat, but stepped aside for then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who had become a national figure for her role in the 2000 presidential vote recount.

Buchanan got his chance in 2006, when Harris ran for the Senate. His party connections and personal wealth made him the front-runner. In the primary, he stressed his conservative credentials and challenged his chief rival, former Sarasota Republican Party Chairman Tramm Hudson, for his positions on abortion rights and immigration. Hudson claimed that Buchanan resigned from his printing company just days before it declared bankruptcy. But Hudson stumbled when, in telling a story about his Army days, he asserted that black soldiers were poor swimmers. After spending more than $2 million of his own money, Buchanan won 32% victory in the five-way primary. But the bruising fight left Buchanan little time to recover before the general election.

The Democratic nominee was Christine Jennings, who like Buchanan, was a transplanted Midwesterner and a self-made business success. An Ohio native, she rose from bank teller to bank owner. National Democrats took an interest in the Jennings campaign and pummeled Buchanan through the fall for his business dealings. Buchanan responded by characterizing Jennings as a pro-tax liberal, a charge that was tough to stick on the former Republican with a banking background. Despite the Republican advantage in the district, Buchanan was hurt by the attacks and the poor political environment for Republicans. But he was able to spend over $8 million on his campaign, including $5.5 million of his own money. Jennings spent $3 million, about $2 million out of her own pocket. They made it the most expensive House race in 2006.

Buchanan prevailed on Election Day, but Democrats disputed the results for another year. After a recount, Republican election officials certified Buchanan the winner by 369 votes out of nearly 240,000 votes cast. Jennings filed a lawsuit alleging there a gross undercount due to voting machine malfunction, but several rounds of testing were inconclusive, and she dropped her lawsuit.

In the House, Buchanan softened his ideological positions. He was one of 19 Republicans who supported most of the Democrats’ early legislative agenda when they took control of the House in 2007. He voted for raising the minimum wage, cutting subsidies to industries, and allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. “I ran as a conservative, but I also ran as someone who is going to be independent,” Buchanan told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. After the BP oil spill disaster in 2010, he pushed for a moratorium on all deep-water drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. He took stances further to the right on immigration and terrorism, calling for an English official-language law and using military tribunals instead of civilian courts to try terrorist suspects. The former car dealer voted against the bailout of Detroit automakers in 2008 because, he said, the companies “failed to develop viable restructuring proposals.” The industry problems led him to sell several of his dealerships.

During the summer of 2011, Buchanan attracted unwanted attention. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that during the past year Buchanan had spent almost $1 million in campaign contributions on himself, companies he owned, or family members. Most of the money reportedly was used to repay campaign checks he wrote to himself in 2006. The article also said he rented campaign office space from his own company and put family members on his payroll. Buchanan had previously faced allegations that business partners and employees of his car dealerships made contributions to his 2006 and 2008 congressional campaigns, and were then reimbursed by Buchanan’s companies. He steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, and maintained that the Federal Elections Commission had exonerated him. But in December 2011, the Herald-Tribune unearthed FEC documents disputing that claim and reported that attorneys investigating the matter found Buchanan to be “less than forthright and at times unbelievable.” By 2012, both the Justice Department and the House Ethics Committee were looking into Buchanan’s campaign-related activities. And Democrats blasted the National Republican Congressional Committee for keeping Buchanan on as finance chairman in 2012.

Buchanan has had ups and downs in his reelection campaigns as well. He beat Jennings in a rematch in 2008 that, although not as costly as the 2006 race, was similarly bitter, with a cross fire of accusations of business fraud, slander, and campaign finance violations. Buchanan emphasized his bipartisanship, and won 56%-37%. In 2010, he cruised to reelection over Democrat James Golden with more than two-thirds of the vote.

With ethics questions swirling in 2012, his House seat looked to be in jeopardy. His Democratic opponent, former state legislator Keith Fitzgerald, made Buchanan’s integrity the main focus of his campaign and launched a website called the Buchanan Files, with links to news stories on the investigations. Then over the summer, the ethics committee cleared Buchanan of wrongdoing, and in September, his office announced that the Justice Department had concluded its probe without charging him. But later that month, two of his associates pled guilty to illegally reimbursing employees who had made contributions to Buchanan. The congressman said he had no knowledge of the reimbursements.

Buchanan had an edge because of the Republican makeup of the district and he outraised Fitzgerald, $2.2 million to $1.4 million. Buchanan also attacked his opponent for helping direct $6 million to the New College, where Fitzgerald teaches. He prevailed, 54% to 46%.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5015

(202) 226-0828

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2104
Washington, DC 20515-0916

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5015

(202) 226-0828

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2104
Washington, DC 20515-0916

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-5015

(202) 226-0828

111 South Orange Avenue Floor 2R Suite 202 W
Sarasota, FL 34236-5806

DISTRICT OFFICE

(941) 951-6643

(941) 951-2972

111 South Orange Avenue Floor 2R Suite 202 W
Sarasota, FL 34236-5806

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-5015

(202) 226-0828

1051 Manatee Avenue West Suite 305
Bradenton, FL 34205-7801

DISTRICT OFFICE

(941) 747-9081

(941) 748-1564

1051 Manatee Avenue West Suite 305
Bradenton, FL 34205-7801

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 225-5015

(202) 226-0828

PO Box 48928
Sarasota, FL 34230

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 48928
Sarasota, FL 34230

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Chris Netram
Tax Counsel; Deputy Chief

Aerospace

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Agriculture

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Animal Rights

Riley Ploch
Digital Communications Director

Appropriations

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Budget

Chris Netram
Tax Counsel; Deputy Chief

Commerce

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Foreign

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Gun Issues

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Health

Edward Kim
Legislative Assistant; Health Policy Advisor

edward.kim@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Homeland Security

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Immigration

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Intelligence

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Judiciary

Edward Kim
Legislative Assistant; Health Policy Advisor

edward.kim@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Labor

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Medicare

Edward Kim
Legislative Assistant; Health Policy Advisor

edward.kim@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Military

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Native Americans

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Science

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Tax

Chris Netram
Tax Counsel; Deputy Chief

Technology

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Telecommunications

Edward Kim
Legislative Assistant; Health Policy Advisor

edward.kim@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Transportation

Chris Netram
Tax Counsel; Deputy Chief

Veterans

Sean Brady
Legislative Director

sean.brady@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5015

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Vern Buchanan
Votes: 168,990
Percent: 61.6%
Henry Lawrence
Votes: 105,357
Percent: 38.4%
2012 GENERAL
Vern Buchanan
Votes: 187,147
Percent: 53.61%
Keith Fitzgerald
Votes: 161,929
Percent: 46.39%
2012 PRIMARY
Vern Buchanan
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Vern Buchanan
Votes: 183,811
Percent: 68.86%
James Golden
Votes: 83,123
Percent: 31.14%
2010 PRIMARY
Vern Buchanan
Votes: 61,517
Percent: 83.45%
Don Baldauf
Votes: 12,197
Percent: 16.55%
2008 GENERAL
Vern Buchanan
Votes: 204,382
Percent: 55.54%
Christine Jennings
Votes: 137,967
Percent: 37.49%
Jan Schneider
Votes: 20,289
Percent: 5.51%
2008 PRIMARY
Vern Buchanan
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (69%), 2008 (56%), 2006 (50%)

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