NEW PORT RICHEY — Living up to his maverick reputation, longtime legislator Mike Fasano said he voted absentee for Democrat Amanda Murphy in the special election to fill his former Pasco House seat.
Murphy faces Republican Bill Gunter in the Oct. 15 election for District 36. Early voting for the race begins Saturday morning.
“I believe Amanda will be the best person to represent the district,” Fasano said. “I personally believe she will help the little guy and gal.”
Fasano, a lifelong Republican, represented west Pasco in the House and Senate for 18 years before stepping down this summer to accept the appointment as county tax collector. He initially said he would stay out of the race but has strongly hinted that he would cross party lines to support Murphy.
He said Murphy’s support for Medicaid expansion was the deciding factor.
“I think Bill Gunter is a good guy and good person, but I’m afraid he will follow the Republican leadership, and we don’t need any more sheep in Tallahassee,” Fasano said.
He complained earlier this week about a third-party campaign mailer that used his name in an attack on Murphy. When Gunter’s campaign pointed out that the Florida Democratic Party paid for a direct mail piece attacking the Republican, Fasano he did not object to his name being used.
“At least we know who paid for it,” Fasano said. “With those third party ads, there’s no way to find out where the money came from.”
Both candidates have racked up endorsements: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush for Gunter. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched to the Democratic Party in December, hosted an event for Murphy in the district on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t say (Fasano’s) is the only one that counts, but it’s definitely going to get the most media attention,” said USF political scientist Susan MacManus. “If you’re a Democrat and you’re getting his endorsement, you’ve got to feel pretty good.”