Pasco's Star Rises in Tallahassee With Weatherford, Corcoran, Maybe One More
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Pasco is the 12th largest county in Florida, but it certainly throws its class around in Tallahassee heavyweight-style, with the current House speaker and a future House speaker claiming it as home.
One of the fastest growing counties in the nation, Pasco's growth continues to amaze. By 2010, its population was 11 times the size of what it had been only 50 years before. Politically, while the GOP often has a slight edge, Pasco remains competitive and Democrats can outnumber Republicans in key districts.
Now it looks as if Pasco could have another Florida House speaker in the wings. Earlier this month, Mike Fasano, who served as House majority leader and Senate president pro tempore in his almost two decades in the Legislature, resigned from the House to become Pasco County tax collector.
Republicans are already lining up to run for the seat Fasano vacated. Bill Gunter, a pastor who played with the Florida Gators from 1989-1993, is already running hard and has some major endorsements, including Weatherford's, Corcoran’s, and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco’s.
But Gunter could have problems. He does not live in the district yet, though he is expected to move there soon. While he is reeling in those big endorsements, he should not expect an open shot at the Republican nomination. Jim Mathieu, the chairman of the Pasco County GOP, is likely to get into the race. The primary is less than a month away -- Sept. 17-- and the general election Oct. 15.
Whoever wins the seat will have more seniority than any member of the House besides Mike Hill. This gives whoever wins the seat time to make connections and raise funds to help future legislators, which can often pay off in future leadership contests. Redshirt freshmen have done well in moving up the House ranks.
Whoever wins the Pasco County seat will be well-positioned to make a future bid for House leadership and it’s certainly easy to see Corcoran helping Gunter reach for the gavel. That being the case, expect money to flood into Pasco County in the coming weeks.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.