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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald likely to challenge Vern Buchanan



keithfitzgerald.jpgDemocratic former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald of Sarasota is poised to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. Taking on a relatively popular multi-millionaire incumbent in a GOP-leaning district is an uphill challenge to say that least, but Fitzgerald was a moderate and among the brighter bulbs in Florida House over two terms is is likely to be Buchanan's toughest challenger since  his first race in 2006. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee heavily recruited Fitzgerald and sees Buchanan as a prime target in Florida.

"No doubt he's a fairly popular incumbent and that's part of the challenge of the whole thing. At the same time he has gone quite a long time without anybody speaking back to his messaging,'' Fitzgerald, a political scientist at New College of Florida,  told Buzz. "Our sense is his support is pretty shallow and when people get a little but of information about who he is and what he's up - and who I am and what I'm up to - and think it changes pretty quickly."

Buchanan's numerous ethics and campaign finance controversies will likely be a big part of the campaign, as well as his support for the Paul Ryan budget plan that would have turned overhauled Medicare and turned it into a voucher program for future beneficiaries.

Congressional District 13, stretching for southern Tampa Bay in Manatee down to Charlotte county and including rural Hardee and Desoto counties. John McCain beat Barack Obama by 5 percentage points in the district in 2008, though it redistricting could shift some of the most solidly Republican areas into another district.

Fitzgerald, 54, served two terms in the Florida House, losing re-election in the 2010 Republican wave. A formal announcement is expected Thursday.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 10:48am]


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