No. 18 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Vern Buchanan

After a leadership snub last year, the longtime Congressman showed a mastery of The Process and gracefully wielded influence.

At the start of the 118th Congress, leadership delivered U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan a hard blow, denying him the House Ways and Means gavel. But from the Vice Chair’s seat on the House’s most powerful committee, the Longboat Key Republican has proven he still has plenty of power to wield.

The nine-term incumbent continues to lead the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, shaping critical health care policy. He’s also continued to rack up policy accomplishments in the House, and has originated 33 legislative initiatives that became law since his arrival in Washington in 2007.

“The accomplishments speak for themselves. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Member of Congress who has produced more for his region than Vern Buchanan,” said Max Goodman, a longtime political adviser.

“Just this year, Vern secured over $20 million for Manatee County to improve roads, bridges and other local projects. At the national level, Vern has been a vehement defender of law enforcement, has received ‘A’ grades for his record on border security and has been relentless in his defense of Israel against the terrorist group Hamas.”

He also had two pieces of legislation introduced this Congress that were included in the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

That includes the Rachel Booth Act, legislation named for a Lithia constituent who lost spousal military benefits after her husband was convicted of spousal abuse. He crafted that measure with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who championed the effort in the Senate.

The NDAA also included language from Buchanan’s Data Recorders Installed in Vehicles Equipped So Armed Forces Endure (DRIVE SAFE) Act, which is now prompting an evaluation of the use of black boxes in military tactical vehicles. Buchanan has been pushing for such a study since the 2019 death of Bradenton man Nicolas Panipinto, an Army specialist killed in a training accident while driving an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle in South Korea.

It’s no secret that this has been a chaotic Congress, but even in some of the greatest points of turmoil, Buchanan maximized the value of his own vote in the Republican caucus. That notably came on display during the fight for who should succeed Speaker Kevin McCarthy after his ouster from leadership. After a snub of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Buchanan and a small group of Republicans effectively scuttled a bid for Speaker by Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan.

The ultimate result? Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson ascended to Speaker, and held his first major fundraiser in that role at Buchanan’s Longboat Key mansion in November, stopping for a tour with Buchanan of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport along the way. The event raised $1.4 million in a day, largely putting to rest national concerns about Johnson’s fundraising capabilities.

Meanwhile, Buchanan has also maintained political dominance in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, where a new generation of political leaders has looked toward Buchanan as a role model. That includes his son, state Rep. James Buchanan, but also a host of other leaders who got their start under Buchanan’s wing.

“Vern is a strong and steady hand in the Republican Caucus with his experience and clout among his colleagues,” said state Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican and Florida’s Republican National Committeeman. “He knows how to get things done and is extremely effective in the role. We are lucky to have his leadership in Washington.”

Buchanan last year easily navigated a GOP Primary challenge by Sarasota activist Martin Hyde, and this year appears on track to do the same to Bradenton Inspiration Academy founder Eddie Speir.

But he’s also fended off challenges through the years from credible Democratic opponents, from his first congressional campaign victory over Democratic fundraiser Christine Jennings by just 369 votes to more recent defeats of nationally backed Democrats David Shapiro and Margaret Good.

When he lost the race for Ways and Means last year, speculation ran amok that the Florida congressional delegation’s Co-Chair may eye retirement. But by the time qualification week rolled back around, those rumors were hushed. After wielding influence in Washington under pretty harsh political conditions the past year, Buchanan, at 73 years old, seems to be on the way up.



We define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

We define a politician as being in office or running for office.

Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician 1 point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.

Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2024 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Matthew Blair of Corcoran Partners, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, political consultant Maya BrownRicky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Ana Cruz of Ballard Partners, Justin Day of Capital City Consulting, Barry EdwardsJoe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, Adam Giery of Strategos Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, political consultant Benjamin Kirby, TECO Energy Regional Affairs Coordinator Shannon Love, Merritt Martin of Moffitt Cancer Center, Mike Moore of The Southern Group, political consultant Anthony PediciniRon Pierce of RSA Consulting, J.C. Pritchett, pastor of St. Pete’s Faith Church, Darren Richards of Tucker/Hall, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, Amanda Stewart of Johnston and Stewart, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

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].

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    May 30, 2024 at 11:14 am

    Vern look like he might be kin with them Perdues of Georgia. Know what I mean?

    But I do agree, both he and Ernest are more powerful than Blazay the flip flopping chameleon

Comments are closed.


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