Down to the wire with Gunter, Murphy in Pasco HD 36

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Pasco County voters will cast their ballots today to replace former Rep. Mike Fasano in the Florida House.

According to Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida, the House District 36 seat could be an opportunity for Democrats to win some midterm headway in a relatively consistent Republican district.

Democrat Amanda Murphy, a 43-year-old financial advisor, is seeking the seat covering much of the western part of the county. She faces 42-year-old Bill Gunter, a former pastor at New Port Richey’s Redeemer Community Church.

Although Gov. Rick Scott tapped Fasano for Pasco County tax collector in August, the Republican has since supported Murphy after staying impartial in the race initially. Other leading Democrats have endorsed Murphy, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, former state CFO Alex Sink and former Gov. Charlie Crist — the leading name for the 2014 gubernatorial race. Murphy also picked up the endorsement of the Tampa Bay Times

The GOP has also come out in support of Gunter with endorsements from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, House Speaker Will Weatherford and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Republican state Sen. John Legg and Pasco County School Superintendent Kurt Browning have announced their support for Gunter.

Since Fasano is a charming and popular political figure in Pasco, Larrabee writes that Fasano’s support for Murphy helped many choose to vote Democratic. It could be what gives the vote to Murphy, since registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in HD36 by about 2,400 voters.

Fasano’s move to tax collector was what prompted Murphy to run.

“The biggest thing was when Mike Fasano wasn’t going to be there to fight for us,” she told the News Service.

The make-up of the Legislature will probably not change if the Democrat takes the HD 36 race Tuesday. Prior to Fasano’s resignation, Republicans outnumber Democrats 75 to 44 in the House. Nevertheless, a GOP loss could keep the party from gaining a super majority in the midterm year, the kind that made Democrats irrelevant following the 2010 election.

Murphy and Gunter have run on the same issues that made Fasano popular—property insurance rates and the law that allow energy companies to charge customers in advance for proposed nuclear power plants, even if they are never built.

The Advanced Nuclear Cost Recovery legislation (ANCR) has become one of the biggest issues in the state, something that has almost universal disdain from both candidates as well as voters.

“That’s got people really upset,” Gunter told reporters. 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.