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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: Best-available Gator theory doesn’t apply

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Honed to a fine, virtually flawless edge over several decades, the Jackson Axiom of Competition says, simply, this:

All other considerations being equal, pull for the team or individual whose triumph would reflect the most glory on the Florida Gators. (The alumni association is free to regard this as an in-kind contribution.)

On its face, this would suggest when it comes to the District 36 Republican primary in the special election to select a successor in the state House of Representatives for new Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, I would have a default rooting interest in Bill Gunter, the Steve Spurrier-era Gators’ defensive tackle, over Pasco Republican Party chairman Jim Mathieu, who matriculated at Rutgers and Northern Illinois, and whose CV offers no hints about whether he knows such UF essentials as the chronological order of Gaffney family members to have played for the Gators*, or even if he could place quarterback Wayne Peace’s appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the proper decade**.

Application of the Jax Ax so early on, however, assumes all other considerations are equal. Yes, OK, it’s a weasel phrase. So sue me.

The truth is, this particular special election primary (to be settled Sept. 17) presents too many fascinating story lines to anoint a darling – unless, of course, you bank a paycheck signed by the Pasco sheriff, in which case if you hadn’t declared loyalty to Gunter by noon Monday, you may never get another promotion, or have your contract renewed.

This is understandable. Gunter, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America – the hyper-conservative branch of domestic Presbyterianism (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – is a sheriff’s office chaplain. Others quickly in the harness of the Gunter bandwagon, lawyers Jeremiah Hawkes and future presumed state House speaker Richard Corcoran, are Gunter pals and serve as Sheriff Chris Nocco’s outside counsel.

All of which add up to considerations tipping the scales in favor of a not-so-fast ruling.

Moreover, we had a prolonged look at Gunter as a candidate for public office last summer when he challenged incumbent County Commissioner Jack Mariano. Even though Gunter lost a two-point squeaker, the outcome was almost certainly a reflection on the electorate’s disenchantment with the unpredictable Mariano, because Gunter – putting it as charitably as possible – needed improvement as a candidate.

He pandered shamelessly to Pasco’s first-responders, promising deputies and firefighters he would figure out how to bump up their salaries without ever identifying where he thought he could find the extra millions. And he included in his answer to The Question (“Why are you running?”) that he’d been recruited by well-heeled developers alarmed by Mariano’s refusal to stay on the tracks they’d laid.

There’s also the question of Gunter’s residence. This ought to be an issue of minor concern, especially if Gunter demonstrates himself to be the superior candidate. After all, the concerns of west Pasco are the same on either side of arbitrarily drawn district lines. But, just as last year, Gunter doesn’t live in the district he seeks to represent, and he’s made it clear the only reason he would move is if he wins.

Hmmm. So it’s only despicable when Democrats go election shopping?

Finally, the special election presents another window through which we can observe the ongoing intramural feud for influence in the GOP. Why should the Beltway media have all the fun? The Gunter-Mathieu showdown – assuming no other Republicans jump in by Friday – is the national tussle writ small. The establishment is huddled up with Gunter, the unruly rascals – Pasco State Republican Committeeman Bill Bunting’s gang – are barking audibles at the line of scrimmage alongside Mathieu.

With so much intrigue yet to sort out, this is one of those rare occasions – like when the Miami Heat make the NBA Finals – when the Jax Ax simply does not, must not and cannot apply.

(*) Gaffneys in order, Don (1973-75), brother Derrick (1974-77) and Jabar (Derrick’s son, 2000-01).

(**) Peace appeared on the Sept. 13, 1982 cover alongside the headline “The Peace Corps.”

tjackson@tampatrib.com

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