What is the real story behind Mike Bennett’s short-lived congressional campaign?

Mike’s decision to pull out of this race had nothing to do with his belly, or heartburn, or wanting to spend time fishing or the proverbial “time with the family.” Mike Bennett is too smart and isn’t that shortsighted to allow belly issues to dictate his political future (which he incidentally says he still has).

Bennett claims he “didn’t have the fire in the belly…”– but is that what was really going on?

By Chris Ingram

I like Mike Bennett. His poorly chosen words about making people walk hundreds of miles to vote (as he alleges) like they do in Africa notwithstanding, he’s a political pro who knows what he’s doing.

So when he came out with his “I don’t have the fire in the belly” line as he announced his withdraw as a candidate for the 11th Congressional District (currently held by Kathy Castor, D-Tampa), I laughed.

Photo: Mike Bennett

Mike’s decision to pull out of this race had nothing to do with his belly, or heartburn, or wanting to spend time fishing or the proverbial “time with the family.” Mike Bennett is too smart and isn’t that shortsighted to allow belly issues to dictate his political future (which he incidentally says he still has — a political future that is, not belly issues).

No, Mike Bennett’s withdraw has everything to do with Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota).

First, understand Bennett was never going to actually run against Castor. The only way Bennett was going to run in the 11th was if the legislature drew him a district that made Sarasota and Manatee counties the heart of the district. And that wasn’t ever going to happen. Mike Bennett is a politician, and politicians loathe taking the kinds of risks Bennett would have been taking by running against Castor; even post-redistricting, the 11th will more than likely remain a safe “D” district and Mike Bennett knows it.

What Bennett did by forming a campaign committee and saying he was going to run against Castor was allowing him the opportunity to raise money for a congressional campaign. The U.S. Constitution only requires that a member of Congress be a resident of the state they represent. They don’t have to actually live in the district. As such, Bennett could’ve run against Castor, all the while not even living there. Of course south Tampa residents would have balked at the carpet-bagger from down south and Bennett knows this. He publicly said he was willing to move into the 11th if he had to, but that was not likely and it only partly resolved the carpet-bagging/opportunist problem.

For Bennett, complicated federal election laws would have allowed him to run as a candidate for the 11th (even though he didn’t live there) and raise money. And as with all things politics, to understand an issue, you need only follow the money (or understand how it flows). Bennett could raise money as a candidate for the 11th District and then later transfer that money for his campaign for any congressional seat in the state so long as he did so by candidate qualifying day next year.

And that is what I think Bennett intended to do.

Enter Vern Buchanan, who represents the district where Mike Bennett lives.

Unless you believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth fairy, you don’t believe in coincidences — at least not ones like the following:

Early Monday, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) announced it was closing its case looking into allegations that Congressman Buchanan knowingly accepted illegal campaign contributions. Later that day Mike Bennett withdrew his candidacy for Castor’s seat. But remember, he never intended to run against Castor. Saying he was running against Castor just allowed him to raise money without having to announce what he was really hoping to do — which is run for the seat currently held by Buchanan — which he only intended to do if things with the FEC went south for Buchanan, or if at the last minute Buchanan decided to run for the U.S. Senate.

Mike Bennett was just bluffing and waiting to see what happened with his pal Vern. Fortunately for Vern the cards worked out well for him, but for Bennett he lost his seat at the table.

I spoke to Bennett this afternoon and told him of my theory to which he replied, “I hadn’t thought about that.” But like he said in his announcement earlier this week, he told me he’s not finished in politics.

He just needs to down some Rolaids and catch some fish first.

Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online. He is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him atChris@IrreverentView.com.

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5 thoughts on “What is the real story behind Mike Bennett’s short-lived congressional campaign?”

  1. Good grief…I guess only a professional political consultant could figure out the twists and turns of that! DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! I couldn’t even follow it all while I was reading it. Wow…you guys in politics are a twisted bunch. No offense, Chris. But really…


  2. I hope Hillsborough County Commissioner, Mark Sharpe runs for the US House District 11 Seat. Comm. Sharpe is an honorable man and if elected, he would be one of the smartest and sincerest on Capitol Hill.


  3. When is Castor going to request a visit from Obama to come to Tampa? I just need to hear from the “o” how hard he is “working” for jobs (when not golfing)and tell me that the 2nd “Summer of Recovery” is well underway. It just makes me feeeel so warm & fuzzy to listen to “The One”,and Kathy feels my pain too!


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