In times long ago or far away, the contest to decide who will succeed Mike Fasano in the state House of Representatives would have ended near dinner time Thursday, which was about the time Fasano declared his preference. But coastal Pasco is not Haiti, North Korea or Iran, nor is this the 18th century, so rather than name his replacement, the man who created the opening in the first place must be content with having announced The Only Endorsement That Matters™.
Whether the slogan lives up to its exalted billing will be revealed Oct. 15, in all likelihood — assuming the usual sterling efficiency of Brian Corley’s vote-counters — before the first pitch of baseball’s league playoff nightcap. But, for the record, Fasano’s choice, expressed in the absentee ballot he mailed last week, is for the Democrat, Amanda Murphy.
In other words, having cut the deal that ushered him out of Tallahassee and into the Pasco Tax Collector’s office, Fasano’s quarter-century-long journey from Republican party-builder, rabble-rouser and enforcer to nettlesome GOP maverick to political androgyny is at last complete. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
The cracks discovered when Fasano would not forsake his pal, GOP turncoat Charlie Crist, in the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign (won by Republican Marco Rubio) have, like hairline fractures in a house over an active sinkhole, at last split wide open. What this means for Fasano’s political future — will he replicate Crist’s path to the other side? — is anybody’s guess, but at this moment it’s hard to imagine the local Republican Party generating much enthusiasm for his 2016 campaign.
Then again, establishment support may be moot; Fasano hasn’t needed Pasco GOP muscle to succeed at the ballot box in an awfully long time.
So, back to the District 36 special election, a race lately characterized by ugly mailers issued by an independent political action group — Citizens for Fairness — based in Melbourne and peddling false and/or misleading claims targeting Murphy. The charges are so off-the-charts absurd, and reflect so poorly on GOP candidate Bill Gunter, even some devoted Pasco Republicans have begun clamoring for the Legislature to do something about unregulated PACs, particularly their anonymous donors.
Nevermind the obvious First Amendment problems here; nevermind tempting the law of unintended consequences. This is a briar patch that won’t be cleared anytime soon.
Meanwhile, even without Fasano’s blessing, events have been coalescing in ways that favor Murphy, a financial advisor for Raymond James. I mean, a year from now most voters may have forgotten all about the federal work stoppage, and those who remember may be inclined to blame both parties equally. But just now Republicans appear to be bearing the brunt of the public’s frustration.
Now consider that District 36 leans slightly Democratic, and that state Democrats are whipping the outcome as a referendum on Gov. Rick Scott — about whom Democrats are more passionately opposed than Republicans are enthusiastically for — and the problems facing the GOP candidate become obvious.
If the GOP candidate is the pastor for an 18th-century version of the Presbyterian Church, one in which the leadership roles of women are severely limited; has trouble discussing the details of what he hopes to achieve in the Legislature; and has conceded if he loses the election he’ll scamper back to his longtime home in District 37 (represented by his friend, parishioner and presumed future House Speaker Richard Corcoran), and the outcome — even without Fasano’s nod — seems foreordained.
Then again, as a defensive end for the Florida Gators in the early 1990s when Steve Spurrier was shaping his old-ball-coach legend, Gunter faced plenty of match-ups in which a bleak outcome seemed foreordained until the hitting started. As they say, that’s why they play the games.