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Political Newcomer Buchanan Seeks Pensacola Mayor's Office

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

In the first of a two-part look at the candidates who have pre-filed for Mayor of Pensacola, meet Drew Buchanan, who’s beginning his first campaign for public office.

Drew Buchanan moved to Pensacola in 2014 after growing up in Fort Walton Beach. In the process, he rediscovered part of his family whose ancestors came to the city during Reconstruction. He also founded an online local news outlet, The Pulse.

“For me when I moved here after I left the Air Force, I really just dived into the local history,” said Buchanan. “Eventually when I started The Pulse, I really became involved in the policy of Pensacola [and] as well into local politics.”

In deciding to begin his campaign, Buchanan says it was running “The Pulse” that brought him into contact with the issues facing City Hall, along with other local government. The one issue that sticks out for him is transparency.

“Being in the media profession, I know how important it is to have open public records; to have open emails to request records, and to be accessible to the citizens if you’re a politician,” Buchanan says. “I’m going to make this a huge issue in the campaign.”

Buchanan suspended operations of “The Pulse” earlier this month, citing ethics and transparency.

As editor, Buchanan has been supportive of the Hayward administration on some issues. But he concedes that more often than not – he’s been critical. A few issues, he says, are among the reasons he’s running.

“The hatchery project; I think I would have done that differently,” said Buchanan. “Especially when it comes to being as transparent as possible. The balance of infrastructure improvements, and how much we’re spending in each neighborhood. Although we’re doing better, we’re still neglecting many of our West Side neighborhoods.”

Currently a member of the Air Force Reserve based at Hurlburt Field, Buchanan wants to be hands-on when it comes to strengthening ties between the City of Pensacola and the military. Part of that, he says, is being ready for the next round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC.

“So many bases close around the country, because the cities are not proactive in making sure that they have room to grow,” said Buchanan. “I want to do more – especially with NAS Pensacola to be welcoming of their new sailors, Marines, airman and Coast Guardsmen; so that eventually when they get out, they consider Pensacola to call home.”

And of course, there’s the 800-pound gorilla in the local economy – tourism. Since the Pensacola mayor has no jurisdiction over Pensacola Beach, Buchanan says the focus should be on downtown and the potential growth of the historical tourism market.

Credit City of Pensacola

“The University of West Florida has done a fantastic job with the Historic Trust and Historic Village,” said Buchanan. “I want to see it expand further in downtown Pensacola, and even outside of downtown, to recognize the entire history of the city. Pensacola is a melting pot of diverse cultures.”

It stands to reason that Buchanan would know a thing or two about Florida politics. His Uncle was Pensacola native Reuben Askew, Florida’s 37th Governor, who died in 2014. Buchanan was asked how much of his politics are rooted in his uncle’s.

“A lot,” responded Buchanan. “I do not think I would be running this campaign if not for my uncle. Now that said, I am not my uncle. I do have different policy objectives, obviously, than he had back in the 1970s and 80s. But his legacy had such a huge impact on me; not just as a child, but here today even after he’s gone.”

Drew Buchanan concedes he’s probably in for a long journey. According to the latest filings with the Supervisor of Elections Office, Buchanan shows a zero balance in his war chest. [Updated to add: as of March 31 Buchanan has raised $3,027.]  An independent, he’s refusing support from political action committees, corporations and special interest groups.