By Jeremy Wallace
December 3, 2008
U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in 2010, dropping a series of dominoes that could lead to a major reorganization of the region’s political landscape.
Almost immediately, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, has surfaced as a top candidate to run for the seat that he helped Martinez win in 2004.
“He’s not ruling it out,” said Sally Tibbetts, Buchanan’s spokeswoman. “His phone has been ringing off the hook.”
If Buchanan runs for the Senate, it will leave the 13th Congressional District with an open seat for the third time in eight years. There is no shortage of potential candidates who could jump into that race. A state senator, state House members and county commissioners from two counties are among those watching what Buchanan does.
Buchanan’s deep pockets and his willingness to self-finance his campaign immediately make him a serious prospect to run for the Senate, said Chris Ingram, a Republican political consultant based in Tampa. Buchanan in 2006 spent more than $5 million of his own money to win his seat in Congress.
“That money is a real asset,” Ingram said.