Three Republican candidates are seeking the party’s nomination for the District 36 Florida House seat vacated this summer by Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano.
The three candidates are James Mathieu, chairman of the local Republican Executive Committee, Bill Gunter, a Presbyterian minister and Jeromy Harding, vice president of Barrett-Harding Insurance in Port Richey.
The district encompasses coastal Pasco County west of Little Road. Only registered Republicans are eligible to vote in the primary Sept. 17. Early voting will continue through Saturday at the West Pasco Government Center. The winner will face Democrat Amanda Murphy in a special election Oct. 15.
Q. Are there any divisions of state government that should be privatized or outsourced? If so, which one(s)?
Answer (Gunter): It’s something that should be asked each and every year but isn’t. If we did, I can guarantee you we’ll find programs, divisions, maybe even agencies that have outlived their purpose.
Answer (Harding): I believe that most government services should be privatized. Competition drives cost down for taxpayers-consumers.
Answer (Mathieu): I support privatization, when practical and appropriate, of certain governmental functions. The state government performs many ministerial functions which technology has offered solutions which are of low cost. Many of these functions should be privatized. Why should our state government invest in developing technology (especially billing, information services etc.) when the private sector has spent the necessary funds and developed such expertise. These can be privatized.
Major functions such as the Department of Corrections can be problematic because of numerous federal and state laws regarding civil rights. However, routine incarceration, juveniles detention, lower drug offenses may be appropriate for such privatization.
Q. Should Florida abandon the federal Common Core State Standards of education? Please explain.
Answer (Gunter): We need to make sure we get this right. We should seek to have the highest standards in the world and then hold our education establishment accountable on meeting those goals. If that’s a Florida set of standards, then I’d support it. I think we must look at it all and figure which standards achieve the greatest outcomes for our schoolchildren. When we put student achievement first, and it’s real and measured, everyone wins.
Answer (Harding): Yes, I think Common Core would have been OK as a state program, but it is put in place on a federal level. We need more money to a classroom level and less money juggling between federal, state, county.
Answer (Mathieu): As president of a nonprofit public charter school, I am familiar with Common Core. I support standardized testing; however, I am extremely skeptical of the implementation of Common Core standards. Once every state has implemented Common Core, the federal government will be able to match apples versus apples. It will be the beginning of a national school board.
Regretfully, funds collected and spent at the federal level will not be effective when received at the local level. It will be eaten up by the bureaucracy and inefficient, wasteful implementation, as most federal programs.
I believe in local control and accountability. Educational services are best delivered, and funds best spent, at the local level where close scrutiny of the expenditures and implementation of programs can be had.
Q. What is your position on Florida’s “stand your ground” law?
Answer (Gunter): I totally support it.
Answer (Harding): There is nothing wrong with the “stand your ground” law.
Answer (Mathieu): I fully support the “stand your ground” law. Presently, the law does not provide for its exact implementation. Whether the affirmative defense is set forth in a separate hearing, jury instructions, etc., was ignored at the time of passage. Rest assured our liberal Florida Supreme Court will pass procedural and substantive rules to water down this law. We need to “tweak” the law now in advance of these liberal changes which the Supreme Court of Florida will implement. Every Floridian has a right to stand their ground.
Q. As state funding for higher education is reduced, colleges and universities are raising tuition, placing a greater burden on parents and students. What, if anything, should the state Legislature be doing to keep college affordable?
Answer (Gunter): We need to create laws that let the money flow where the measurements, standards and accountability are best. We need to allow the free market and competition to balance out the tuition rates. This is happening now as we speak. In the next decade you’ll be able to get a college degree without ever leaving your home. It will be more accessible and cheaper and still have quality instruction. What we need to do as a state is prepare for this wave.
Answer (Harding): No response.
Answer (Mathieu): No simple answer to keeping college tuition affordable. You get nothing for nothing. I am not a proponent of funds for new buildings and campuses but believe that an educational institution must be clean, safe and wholesome. This is where the focus should be. We need accountability at the college level for the expenditure of the funds presently in their care. Yes, technology funding must be embraced as it is the future; however, we must measure results from the expenditure.