MANATEE -- Mitch Mallett, a state Democratic committeeman representing Manatee County, said Wednesday he has filed to challenge Rep. Vern Buchanan for a seat in Congress.
Mallett, 57, of Bradenton, has not run for public office previously.
Asked why he decided to run, Mallett said Buchanan "votes right along with the Tea Party, and we need to get a different perspective in Congress."
Added Mallett: "He's a rubber stamp for the Tea Party and the Republican Party. He ran saying he'd be open-minded, but if you look at his votes, he has gone the other way."
Mallett served as vice chairman of the Manatee County Democratic Party, and was a delegate supporting Hillary Clinton in 2008, he said.
Mallett works as an independent associate for Legal Shield, a national company that markets legal insurance and identity theft protection and restoration.
Earlier in his career, he owned an Apple computer dealership and a solar energy business.
He moved from Rhode Island to Florida. The married father of two has lived in Manatee County for more than 17 years, he said.
Mallett was particularly critical of Buchanan's position on the Affordable Care Act, saying the nation "lost $24 billion" because Republicans attempted to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government.
The stalemate between the parties ended last week, with Buchanan voting to halt the shutdown.
"I wish Mitch the best of luck," said Pat Benson, chair
man of the Manatee County Democratic Party.
She declined to discuss his chances of winning.
Buchanan's campaign spokeswoman, Sally Tibbetts, said: "We welcome Mitch to the race and look forward to a thoughtful discussion on the issues as we get closer to next year's election."
Another issue Mallett said is important to him was an increase in the minimum wage.
"The Republicans will say we have too many people collecting food stamps, so we need to cut food stamps -- I agree. A lot of them are working full-time and are still on food stamps. We need to raise the minimum wage so they no longer qualify for food stamps," Mallett said.
"If we do that, we'll have a lot more money to spend, more stimulated economy, they'll pay tax instead of collecting of all these entitlements," he added.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.