U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan could enter his next term with greater power than he, or any Florida Congressman, ever enjoyed. But first, he must make it through one more election season and face a challenge from his Right.
Martin Hyde, a two-time Sarasota City Commission candidate, entered the race in Florida’s 16th Congressional District as an existential threat. Endorsed by Donald Trump associates Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, the brash and outspoken activist in many ways represented the conservative id incarnate that led to many an election night upset.
Granted, that seems less likely today, following a string of good fortune for Buchanan and the surfacing of some unpleasant demons for Hyde. But while there’s not much sign of Buchanan becoming Congress’ next Eric Cantor, there’s every reason to pay close attention on Aug. 23 to the GOP Primary in CD 16.
Most importantly, it’s a critical step to Buchanan becoming Chair of the House Ways and Mean Committee. Fortune smiled on the Longboat Key Republican after sitting Ways and Means Ranking Republican Kevin Brady said he would not seek re-election. Then, Trump recruited next-in-line Devin Nunes to run his Truth Social company, which ironically ended up headquartered in Buchanan’s House district.
Buchanan now will be the senior-most Republican on Ways and Means and appears the odds-on favorite to Chair Congress’ most powerful committee. That, of course, depends on the GOP reclaiming a majority in the House, something most prognosticators expect to happen.
And while Hyde landed several Trump-world nods, Buchanan nabbed the support of the former President himself.
The trajectory of Hyde’s candidacy, meanwhile, shifted in a wholly different direction. Pulled over for a traffic stop on Valentine’s Day, Hyde chewed out the female cop for writing him three citations. “I’ll just call the Chief. You know who I am, right?” Hyde told the officer.
An initial report sparked anger at Hyde, but the release of body cam footage turned the matter into an international incident, going viral and spurring death threats from around the globe.
Hyde for a period dropped out of view and hinted he would end his candidacy, but stayed in the race anyway, self-funding after all donations dried up.
More recently, a dispute with a woman in a six-year off-and-on romance that resulted in her reporting Hyde’s emotional instability. After she shared her story with Florida Politics, Hyde rushed to her home to demand a retraction, only for her to later renounce that as well.
Still, the campaign season hasn’t gone perfectly for Buchanan. Redistricting pushed the incumbent Congressman out of Sarasota County, his longtime home. While Buchanan initially showed interest in running in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, that ended up the turf of Sarasota Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Steube.
The Primary won’t mark the end of the road. The winner will face Jan Schneider, a former congressional candidate and schoolmate of Hillary Clinton who openly acknowledges victory against Buchanan to be unlikely. But she has said she wants to run, as much as anything, to be a safeguard should Hyde pull an upset.
The GOP nomination will be decided on Aug. 23.