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    Push for immigration reform migrates east

    By Jeremy Wallace , Herald-Tribune
    / Sunday, November 24, 2013


    U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, has been supportive of addressing the nation’s immigration laws but has consistently said he is against “amnesty” for undocumented residents and wants stronger border enforcement.

    They advertised their event as an effort to urge U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan to support immigration reform.

    But by the end of the Organizing for America event in Sarasota last week, leaders made clear that they have essentially given up on convincing Buchanan to sign on to the immigration reform bill — HR 15 — they want passed.

    Dylan Shepherd, state immigration director for OFA, told about a dozen people at the Selby Library in downtown Sarasota that they need to instead focus their attention on other Republicans — namely U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando — more likely to support their cause than Buchanan.

    “We don’t believe there is any chance he will change his position,” Shepherd told the audience when asked about convincing Buchanan to support a measure that is stalled in the House.

    Shepard said instead of pressuring Buchanan to vote for the HR 15, they should urge him to help push for allowing a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami.

    Shepard said he still wants people in Sarasota to make sure Buchanan knows they support immigration reform. But he said there is just a better chance of getting Republicans like Webster, Miami’s Mario Diaz-Balart or Panama City’s Steve Southerland to sign onto the bill that is already supported by most Democrats in Congress.

    “We do need to keep pressure on Congress to act,” Shepherd said.

    U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, is the only Republican from Florida to so far sign on as a co-sponsor of the Garcia-led bill.

    Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, has been supportive of addressing the nation’s immigration laws but has consistently said he is against “amnesty” for undocumented residents and wants stronger border enforcement.

    The U.S. Senate has already passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill — backed by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican. However, the bill cannot become law unless both chambers pass an identical bill.

    Independent challengers

    Though political experts consider his seat relatively safe, Buchanan is drawing increasing opposition in his bid for a fifth two-year term in Congress.

    Over the last two weeks, two independent candidates — both from south Sarasota County — have launched campaigns to challenge Buchanan for re-election.

    Mike Rodgers, a 30-year-old Venice High graduate, filed to run for the 16th Congressional District on Nov. 8. Then Venice resident Joe Venuti, 75, filed to run for the same office on Nov. 18.

    They joined Bradenton Democrat Mitch Mallett, 57, who announced in October that he intends to run against Buchanan.

    Though all three have announced they intend to run, they must first qualify by either paying a fee or submitting petitions between April 28 and May 2. Independent candidates must pay $6,960 to qualify, and major party candidates must pay $10,440. To qualify by petition, candidates in the 16th District need to submit 4,839 signatures from registered voters.

    The signature requirement is based on 1 percent of the number of registered voters in a congressional district.

    Buchanan is not considered to be in any danger by the top national political forecasters. For instance, the Rothenberg Political Report lists 52 House districts in play in 2014, including five Florida districts. The 16th District, which includes all of Sarasota and most of Manatee counties, is not on the list.

    http://politics.heraldtribune.com/20...migrates-east/
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