by Joe Shea
April 23, 2014
BRADENTON, Fla., April 23, 2014 -- A three-time Super Bowl hero may be getting ready to drop back and pass - on a Congressional race that most say he has little chance of winning. Meanwhile, fans say, the pocket of defenders around him appears to be collapsing.
At the same time, a lesser-known challenger is seeing support coalesce around his campaign as the May 2 deadline for filing grows near.
Three-time Super Bowl lineman Henry Lawrence, 62, and local comedian and Legal Shield star salesman Mitch Mallett, 58, are both Democrats who hope to unseat one the 10 richest men in Congress, Sarasota car dealer and 13th District Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan.
He is now seeking a fourth term after first winning in 2007, when 18,000 voters failed to choose a candidate in the Congressional race. Buchanan won by just a few hundred votes.
Buchanan's wealth is often estimated to be about $70 million. Some 240 of the 435 current Members of Congress are said to be millionaires.
Lawrence, rumor-mongers are saying, according to purported birth certificates is the father of seven children by seven different women, and rumors say he is broke. They say he reads the newspaper aloud at about a second- or third-grade level.
Mallett has twice been institutionalized as a result of losing his young son in a swimming pool accident, the same rumor-mongers say (he has never been institutionalized, Mallett told The American Reporter).
An influential area fund-raiser has promised to throw a benefit for Mallett if he turns out to be the only Democratic candidate in the race, she says.
Those tidbits are perhaps a high point in the quality of information published about the race; it is largely ignored by local media, which is largely in thrall to Buchanan due to his ubiquitous auto advertising.
The two-term Republican is one of the wealthiest dealer-owners in the country.
Lawrence, on the other hand, is a popular R&B singer in a Sarasota-area band who should get a recording contract, many say.
Recently his campaign manager, Robert Slider, left the campaign. Rumor also has it that Lawrence is poised to hire a professional campaign manager, but local political leaders say they haven't heard from him or his campaign for at least three weeks.
The NFL star's website, henrylawrenceforcongress.com, was not functioning when visited Tuesday night.
Observers say the failure of his candidacy is a major embarrassment for Rita Farandino, the Sarasota County Democratic chairwoman, who initially backed Lawrence.
Lawrence, who appeared in the Pro Bowl twice during a 13-year career with the Los Angeles and then the Oakland Raiders, has soldiered on.
The handsome 6'4", 275-lb. lineman is pursuing a legal assault on Manatee County, Fla., Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett, a former longtime Republican state senator who has closed dozens of majority Democrat polling places in predominantly African-American communities.
At a recent Democratic fund-raising dinner in tony Lakewood Ranch, Fla., Lawrence attacked the Democratic National Committee in angry comments for saying he is not a "viable" candidate.
That discouraged prospective contributors from donating to his campaign, he said.
Mallett, a friend of DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, recently called those comments "inappropriate"; many at the fund-raiser would probably agree.
The precinct closures have been discussed on MSNBC by anchor Ed Schultz, but Bennett so far has backed down on only one precinct, promising to reopen it.
Joe Shea is a candidate for Congress in the 13th District of Florida, and Secretary of the Manatee County Democratic Executive Committee. Visit his website at joesheaforcongress.oom