Bruderly faces uphill challenge in 4th District

Lone Democrat in race hopes fourth time is a charm in his first Jacksonville-area election


For the Recorder

After returning from a June vacation that traced part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition on the Columbia River, David Bruderly learned that Florida’s 4th congressional district did not have a Democrat set to run in the primary election. With just days remaining until the filing deadline, Bruderly decided to embark on a path of his own.

“I noticed there was no Democrat running to represent me in Congress,” said Bruderly, a 68-year-old resident of the Grove Park area off of Beach Boulevard. “I discovered to my horror that there was a write-in candidate who had qualified,” he said, thereby creating a closed primary election in late August. “That struck me as absurd, totally un-American.”

That led Bruderly to an early morning trip later that week to Tallahassee to open a campaign account with a bank. He then raced on foot to pay the $10,440 filing fee with the state Division of Elections to meet the noon candidate filing deadline and ensure his name would appear on the general election ballot in November.

“At 15 minutes to noon, the bank handed me a check that I could write,” he said. “Then I ran up and down a hill in 100-degree heat and high humidity, soaking wet, in a golf shirt luckily. With five minutes to spare I made the deadline.”

As a three-time former congressional candidate – running unsuccessfully in 2002, 2004 and 2006 in the Gainesville area – Bruderly has no illusions that his campaign is anything but an uphill battle in a heavily populated Republican 4th district that includes well-known or well-financed GOP candidates including Bill McClure, Lake Ray, John Rutherford and Hans Tanzler III.

“After 2006, I figured three strikes and you’re out.” said Bruderly, an environmental engineer who until recently operated his own business for more than 25 years. “So I retired from active politics. I went back into my business cocoon, doing my thing with clean energy and alternative fuels.”

With incumbent Republican Congressman Ander Crenshaw retiring after eight terms, Bruderly sees an opening for a Democrat to win the seat in the newly redrawn district, which covers the northern two-thirds of St. Johns County. “Just because it’s a Republican-leaning district doesn’t mean that it’s a gimme,” he said.

Bruderly moved to Jacksonville in 2009, but did not become politically active again until last month. “I’m like a wildflower in the desert,” he said. “You give me some water and I spring to life.”

Bruderly’s top issues are the election process itself, supporting the area’s naval bases and clean energy, which he believes will result in a stronger economy. “The number one issue is that the election is rigged,” the Navy veteran said. “I’m here to give you folks a choice.”

Despite having not raised any campaign donations as of last week, Bruderly expects that to change quickly, with a fund-raising goal of $200,000 by Sept. 1.

“My only job for the next six weeks is to raise money,” he said. “And I hate it. I hate calling people up and begging for money, but that’s what you’ve got to do.”

With several Republicans candidates already drawing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, Bruderly realizes he faces a difficult task in the general election.

“If you look at it from a money perspective, it’s David versus Goliath,” he said. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic. “Stay tuned,” Bruderly said.

Photo: David Bruderly

Photo by Richard Meyers