Vern Buchanan, no stranger to challenged elections, defends Donald Trump’s reluctance to concede

Vern Buchanan
The Sarasota Republican won his first election by 369 votes and face legal challenges.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Tuesday said President Donald Trump retains the right to challenge election results.

That’s especially notable from an elected official whose own arrival in Congress came after spirited challenges to his 2006 victory.

“President Trump has every right to legally challenge the vote in jurisdictions where irregularities have been reported, just as Al Gore did in 2000 when he refused to concede to George Bush until 37 days after the election,” Buchanan tweeted.

The tweet, of course, referenced the 2000 Florida recount. That year, the presidential election hinged on Florida’s electoral votes. Buchanan with his tweet shared a picture of the Nov. 8 edition of the Evening Standard in London indicating Bush won the election, and a later edition indicating Gore would seek a recount.

An initial tabulation of the vote had Bush leading by 1,784 votes, but a statewide recount and weeks of legal challenges saw that narrow. Ultimately, the Republican won the election by 537 votes. The shift in total stood for 18 years as the largest swing in the history of modern U.S. elections— until the 2018 elections in Florida, where there were greater shifts in the contests for U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner as a result of statewide recounts.

Buchanan’s tweet comes as Trump, facing an apparent defeat by Democrat Joe Biden, has refused to concede and dispatched attorneys to several battleground states.

Some, like Georgia, have such slim margins they appear to be headed for a recount. None of those have differences as small as any of the aforementioned Florida elections.

But Buchanan has his own history with a highly contentious recount. He won election in 2006 over Democrat Christine Jennings by a scant 369 votes. Then, too, Democrats presented numerous challenges, many having to do with 18,000 undervotes cast with electronic voting machines that produced no paper trail.

Jennings’ attorneys Jessica Ring Amunson and Sam Hirsch presented data at the time suggesting Jennings would have been the victor but for a technical glitch. The matter became so contentious newly minted Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Jennings to participate in Congress’ member orientation as legal challenges continued through the first half of Buchanan’s first term in the House.

Buchanan’s team at the time pushed back on any questions about the validity of his win, however slim.

“In Florida, we have a process through which close elections are decided,” said then-Buchanan spokesperson Sally Tibbetts, now Sally Dionne and still his press secretary, in a 2006 statement. “The state has certified Vern Buchanan as the winner of a lawful and accurate election. Congressman-elect Buchanan looks forward to being seated on January 4.”

His swearing in moved forward as planned, and Buchanan subsequently won the next seven elections, starting with a rematch against Jennings in 2008 where he tallied a healthier 66,415-vote victory.

Most recently, he defeated Democrat Margaret Good by 55,355 votes last Tuesday. Media called the election immediately, although it takes time to officially certify results and the 10-day window to accept military and overseas ballots has not yet closed in Florida.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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