Amanda Murphy the Favorite to Keep Pasco County House Seat
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The newest member of the Florida House is already gearing up for re-election though 2014 should be a lot easier for her than 2013 was.
Amanda Murphy scored a pickup for Democrats when she beat Republican Bill Gunter in a special election last fall for the open seat which had been vacated by Mike Fasano. Despite being a Republican, Fasano supported Murphy over Gunter and helped her cross the finish line as a winner. Murphy won by the skin of her teeth, beating Gunter 51 percent to 49 percent.
Despite the narrow win, Murphy should have a little more breathing room this year. She started fundraising for 2014 back in December and, in January, Fasano hosted a fundraiser for her. Despite remaining in the GOP ranks, Fasano is still in Murphy’s corner.
Two Republicans are already running against Murphy. Chris Gregg filed his papers to enter the race this week. Gregg is a conservative who worked as a Coast Guard investigator. A supporter of the tea party, Gregg ran for Pasco County Commission in 2012 but ended up losing the race. While there was talk of him entering the special election last year, Gregg held off from jumping in.
James Mathieu should be familiar to Pasco County voters by now since this marks his third bid for the House seat. Mathieu certainly has ties to the area as he was Port Richey’s city attorney and did a stint as city manager there. He also has led the Pasco County GOP.
But Mathieu has had no luck when it comes to running for this House seat and this is his third attempt for it in the last two years. Back in 2012, he primaried Fasano who was looking to return to the House after a decade in the Senate. It wasn’t much of a contest with Fasano running off with the nomination after 83 percent of Republican primary voters backed him and only 10 percent supported Mathieu. Things were only slightly better in 2012 when Gunter took 63 percent and Mathieu placed a distant second with 20 percent.
This is a swing district, as Murphy’s narrow win over Gunter shows. But Murphy has an ace in the hole as Fasano remains one of her biggest boosters. Fasano has been winning elections here for decades and not even the support of Richard Corcoran, who will be speaker of the Florida House in 2016, could help his pastor Gunter to victory.
Republicans have a chance here but Murphy will be a huge favorite over the two Republicans who have already filed. Having Fasano on her team assuring them Murphy is a moderate will help win over Republicans and independents. Despite this being a swing district, Murphy starts off as a solid favorite here.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.