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Former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald will challenge Vern Buchanan in Florida

Former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald has officially announced the launch of his campaign to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in the 13th congressional district.

Though it was widely rumored that Buchanan would run for Senate, the Sarasota Republican ended speculation last week, saying he preferred to keep his current seat as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Launching a campaign against a three-term incumbent may seem no easy feat, but Fitzgerald’s rival has become a rich target. Buchanan has been plagued by allegations of campaign fraud in recent months, and cited in numerous complaints alleging he pressured employees to donate to his various congressional campaigns. Though Buchanan himself was never fined over the allegations, his ex-business partner (whom Buchanan once purportedly referred to as his “golden child”) was fined, to the tune of $67,9000, for reimbursing employees that donated to Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 campaigns.

In August, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on the FBI to investigate Buchanan over the allegations. Last week, a Venice retiree filed her own complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, also requesting an investigation of Buchanan.

Fitzgerald alluded to the allegations while announcing his candidacy to the St. Petersburg Times this morning:

“Instead of focusing on creating jobs or helping families struggling to make ends meet, Congressman Vern Buchanan has tried to end Medicare and protect tax giveaways for big oil while running from one scandal to the next,” said Fitzgerald, to the Times. “His tarnished leadership in a perfect example of what is wrong with Washington, and it’s time for him to go.”

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