Gov. Rick Scott is getting involved in the GOP primary for a state House seat covering portions of Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Scott will appear at a fundraiser Thursday evening for James Buchanan, a Sarasota real estate professional running for the District 71 House seat.
Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, is running against Bradenton attorney Will Robinson in the 2018 Republican primary. Randy Cooper is currently the only Democrat announced, setting up a potential general election race.
The governor’s support could be significant for Buchanan.
While Buchanan will benefit from his family’s wealth and name recognition, he faces a tough contest against Robinson, who has deep connections in the region and also comes from a prominent family.
An Associated Industries of Florida poll from last month found that 81 percent of Republican primary voters approve of Scott’s performance, making the governor a strong ally in a GOP primary.
“I’m very grateful that he’s able to come down and participate in this event,” Buchanan said. “I think Gov. Scott’s done a great job for Florida, especially for business, and that’s a big part of my campaign.”
It’s unusual for Scott to try to influence a GOP primary so directly.
Scott is not known for endorsing or raising money to help primary candidates. Even some of the governor’s closest allies in the Legislature have not received campaign help from him.
During the last election cycle, the Florida Chamber of Commerce ran television ads showing Scott praising four GOP candidates locked in tight primary contests. But the ads used video footage of Scott taken at public events. The governor never weighed in directly on the races. He didn’t officially endorse the candidates.
Buchanan’s fundraiser will be held at the Longboat Key home of John and Denise Saputo. John Saputo owns Gold Coast Eagle Distributing and is a prominent GOP donor. The cost to attend the event is $250.
Scott’s name is featured prominently at the top of the invitation, listed as a “special guest.”
The District 71 seat currently is held by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. Boyd cannot run again because of term limits.