One of the Tampa Bay region’s most popular politicians is contemplating running for the Florida Legislature in 2016.
Mike Fasano says he would consider a return bid to the Florida Senate if the soon-to-be-redrawn districts map offers him the “right opportunity.”
“You should never rule out what might happen,” Fasano told Florida Politics Sunday afternoon while he watched his beloved New York Mets play the Tampa Bay Rays.
It’s not clear what might constitute the “right opportunity” for Fasano to run for the Senate, but it would likely include the drawing of a seat that does not divide Pasco County as it currently is. Most of western Pasco is represented by Wilton Simpson. The southeastern portion is held by John Legg.
Running in 2016 would likely pit Fasano against Simpson, a leading candidate to one day serve as Senate President, in a Republican primary.
The thought of the maverick Fasano returning to Tallahassee — where he is held in contempt by many establishment Republicans and their lobbyist allies — and Simpson’s prospects as a legislative leader could make the race one of the most expensive of the election cycle.
“I bet there are people salivating, waiting for Fasano to pop his head out of the Pasco County gopher hole,” said Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini. “There’s a lot of people who called him friend, that he stabbed in the back.”
Despite these sentiments, Fasano is one of Pasco’s most popular pols. A 2014 poll reported about by the Tampa Bay Times Adam Smith showed that only 5 percent of voters in one Pasco County legislative district held an unfavorable view of Fasano, while 63 percent viewed him favorably.
“”I hope my support isn’t a liability in a primary, but he’s a populist champion who has earned my respect and certainly my endorsement if he wants to come back to Tallahassee to fight the good fight again,” Democratic media strategist Kevin Cate said.
Fasano was appointed Pasco County Tax Collector by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013. That appointment meant that the Legislature lost a veteran legislator who criticized fellow Republicans on their handling of issues such as prison privatization and property insurance.
Fasano had spent nearly 20 years as a legislator and served in both the state Senate and the state House.
Legislative leaders announced last month they will hold a special session to redraw the state’s 40 Senate districts after the chamber acknowledged it violated the state constitution by creating maps that benefit Republicans and incumbents.
This special session will begin Oct. 19 and end Nov. 6.
Lawmakers are already schedule to return to the Capitol next month to draw new congressional maps, as they did last year after a circuit court judge ruled they violated the constitution.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 requiring compact political districts that don’t benefit parties or encumbers.
Republican have a 26-14 majority in the Florida Senate.
Material from Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press was used in this post.