U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan hopes to return to Washington and continue work on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which is the nation's chief architect of taxation.
As the only Floridian on the panel, the Longboat Key Republican holds significant influence over Medicare and Social Security, two programs of great importance to thousands of Manatee County voters.
His Democratic challenger in Congressional District 16, Keith Fitzgerald, a Sarasota resident and New College professor, hopes to upset the three-term incumbent in one of the fiercest U.S. House contests in the Sunshine State.
The two candidates have put out television commerials and mailers with sharp attacks that both campaigns have complained constitute smear tactics. The two repeatedly clashed in the Herald's candidate forum produced in conjunction with Manatee Educational Television and Bay News 9.
All that noise amounts to little of substance. Both sides made allegations of ethical misconduct that have never been substantiated by any official body to date.
The newly redrawn District 16 includes most of Manatee County and all of Sarasota County.
Buchanan rightfully touts his success in business and job creation as a car dealership owner. Raised in a blue-collar family, he worked his way through college and built his fortune through his own entrepreneurship. Today, he ranks among the wealthiest members of Congress.
He embraces pro-growth, free-market policies and targets tax code reform in order to build a simpler and fairer system that will spur business development and make American companies more competitive globally. Tax loopholes that allow corporations to escape paying any income tax must be closed, he says.
Buchanan also advocates regulation reform to abolish burdensome rules that restrict job growth and increase an employer's cost of doing business. He maintains government does not create jobs but the nation's small businesses create 70 percent of new jobs. Innovation and entrepreneurship should be nurtured through less government intrusion.
We also agree with his call for tort reform to discourage frivolous lawsuits that are costly to consumers and small businesses.
Among his other pro-business positions is repeal of the Affordable Care Act's "heavy-handed" mandate that all companies purchase health insurance for their employees.
We must dispute Buchanan's contention that Obamacare cuts Medicare spending by $716 billion with an adverse impact on seniors. As has been widely reported by Politifact, the cuts are aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not Medicare beneficiaries.
Another one of his campaign statements asserts: "The time has come to put aside partisanship and make the tough choices necessary to balance the budget for taxpayers today and future generations." While Buchanan has long championed a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that will continue to be difficult to pass. We certainly agree that spending must be reduced and entitlement programs reformed.
But there's another point in his statement. Early in his congressional career, Buchanan boasted about his bipartisanship. But in today's polarized political environment, that has become lost in the partisan bickering that has earned Congress is lowest public approval ratings since polling began almost four decades ago. We challenge Buchanan to continue to make good on his bipartisanship on the House floor and resist marching in lockstep with the chamber's Republican leadership.
With his history of helping his district on such projects as the Wares Creek-Cedar Hammock flood control and construction of Sarasota National Cemetery, Buchanan has earned high marks during his House tenure. The Herald Editorial Board recommends Vern Buchanan to represent District 16.
Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by 4 p.m. the next weekday after the endorsement appears in print.
Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7047.
View candidate forums
The Herald, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, videotaped candidate forums in a variety of key races.
These forums can be viewed on www.bradenton.com on the "Recent Multimedia" page.
METV is also regularly airing all the forums, and the station can be viewed on Brighthouse channel 614, Verizon FIOS 31 and Comcast 19. For METV airtimes, visit www.metvweb.com.