Bill Gunter wins GOP primary in HD 36 special election

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Bill Gunter of New Port Richey easily won the GOP primary in the special election for House District 36, jumping out to an insurmountable lead with early voters. Gunter was at 63% with 83% of the vote counted.

Coming in behind Gunter is attorney and Pasco Republican Chairman Jim Mathieu, who received 20%. Insurance company employee Jeromy Harding received 17% of the vote.

The Presbyterian minister was also the clear winner in both endorsements and fundraising, receiving the support of a long list of Pasco County leaders, including House Speaker House Will Weatherford, and three members in line to become Speaker of the Florida House — Reps. Steve Crisafulli, Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva.

In total, Gunter raised more than $83,300 in campaign donations, in addition to getting in-kind contributions totaling $10,200. In contrast, Mathieu only took $4,400 in donations and loaned his campaign $10,500 out of his own pocket. Gunter also outspent his opponents, with almost $69,000 spent on the campaign. Mathieu spent only $13,743.

Next, Gunter faces Democrat Amada Murphy in the district-wide ballot to see who will replace former state Rep. Mike Fasano.  

Fasano, the popular New Port Richey Republican, stepped down Aug. 7 to become Pasco County Tax Collector.

So far, Murphy raised slightly more than $29,000, with another $9,500 of in-kind donations.

The next 27 days, until the October 15 general election, will certainly be a struggle for what has been called the ideal “swing district.” Democrats barely outnumber the GOP, and the region leaned Democratic in several statewide races. However, independents and those with “no party affiliation” — 28.7 percent of voters — will be able cast ballots this time, making more than a quarter of the electorate up for grabs by either candidate.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.