National Democrats target Ross Spano, Vern Buchanan for ‘retirement’ in 2020

The Tampa Bay area representatives are among 18 Republicans that will get special attention in the next election.
Published Feb. 19, 2019

Fresh off a midterm election where they won 40 Congressional seats, Democrats are plotting where they can pad their majority in the House of Representatives. And they’re eyeing two districts in Florida.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named U.S. Reps. Ross Spano of Dover and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota to its “2020 Retirement Watch List." The list includes 18 Republicans in competitive districts that the DCCC says may want to reconsider running for re-election.

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It’s a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, albeit, one that is grounded somewhat in reality. More than 30 Republicans in the House and Senate retired ahead of the 2018 election, an astounding number. Those retirements foreshadowed the blue “wave” election that gave Democrats control of the House.

“Whether it’s waking up each morning to read the president’s tweets that they’ll be answering for or slowly coming to the realization that they aren’t in control any more, we expect to see a steady stream of frustrated Washington Republicans heading for the exits,” said Mike Gwin, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman. “Retirements played a major role as Democrats won back the House last year and, in 2020, we expect Republican retirements to aid our effort to expand the Democratic House Majority.”

Of the 16 people on the DCCC’s 2018 retirement list, six remain in Congress.

The wave, though, didn’t crash into Florida shores as hard as it did elsewhere. Republicans here maintained control of the governorship and flipped a Senate seat in races that ended in recounts, while Democrats made modest gains in the GOP-controlled Legislature and netted two Congressional seats.

Both Spano and Buchanan coasted to victory. Both districts have grown more competitive with each passing election.

Buchanan won his district — which spans Sarasota, Manatee and south Hillsborough counties — by 23 points in 2014. He defeated David Shapiro 54.6 percent to 45.4 last November.

Meanwhile, Spano topped Democrat Kristen Carlson, 53 percent to 47 in District 15 in eastern Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. Just two years prior, Republican Dennis Ross won that seat by 15 percentage points.

It’s no surprise Democrats have targeted Spano in 2020. The former state lawmaker joined the 116th Congress under the dark cloud of scandal for $180,000 in potentially illegal campaign contributions he received from two friends during his campaign. Spano acknowledged his campaign erred, and he could face multiple investigations.