FL-13: Vern Buchanan vs. Christine Jennings

At first glance, the race to succeed Florida’s Republican Senate nominee, Rep. Katherine Harris, in the Sarasota-based 13th District means business: Both Republican candidate Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings are successful local business leaders, both with impressive lists of volunteer and community work. The winner, it would seem, would know about things such as job creation, dealing with federal bureaucrats, health care, and how taxes affect small businesses and employees.

But a careful look at where Buchanan and Jennings stand on individual issues, reveals great differences—and should sound an alarm for conservatives, warning them not to take this district for granted, despite Harris’s relatively easy two trips to the polls there.

Auto dealer Buchanan calls for tax deductions and credits to make health insurance more affordable. He has also taken the “no new taxes” pledge. Banker Jennings has yet to address the issue of insurance affordability and, in fact, supports raising taxes on married couples, families with children, small businesses and farmers (Venice Gondolier, Sept. 6, 2006).

“And when you think that my opponent’s first vote will be to make [California Rep.] Nancy Pelosi speaker and give the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee to [New York Rep.] Charles Rangel, who says ‘no question about it’ when asked if taxes will go up under a Democratic Congress, that’s reason enough to elect me,” declares the conservative Buchanan.

The sharp differences between Buchanan and Jennings extend far beyond taxpayer issues. Buchanan calls for tough border security and no guest-worker program, while Jennings backs Ted Kennedy’s scheme for amnesty, Social Security and welfare for the estimated 11 million immigrants now in the U.S. illegally (Sarasota Herald Tribune, Aug. 24, 2004). Buchanan stands by the President for a “victory strategy” in Iraq. Jennings backs a nebulous “summit” for terrorists and terrorist states (Sarasota Bay Club Candidate Forum, Sept. 26, 2006).

“This race is really simple,” says Buchanan, “If you vote for me, you’re voting against Speaker Pelosi.”