The stakes are getting higher in the battle for an open Florida House seat in Pasco County as big-name Democrats and Republicans are getting involved in the fray.
On Thursday, former Gov. Charlie Crist, who had been a Republican until 2010 when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation, endorsed Democrat Amanda Murphy, who has worked for Raymond James as a vice president, for the open House seat. Having switched over to the Democrats at the end of 2012, Crist is the heavy favorite to emerge with his new partys nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott next year.
Crist endorsed Murphy at an event in Port Richey on Thursday, praising her and insisting she would be a worthy heir to Republican Mike Fasano who resigned the seat to accept an appointment from Scott to serve as Pasco County tax collector.
I am very happy to announce that former Governor Charlie Crist has endorsed me in my campaign for state representative of District 36, Murphy announced on Facebook on Thursday.
But her Republican opponent, Bill Gunter, who is a pastor, reeled in an endorsement from the man who bested Crist in the 2010 Senate contest: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Rubio endorsed Gunter on Wednesday, praising the Republican candidate as someone who "will work to grow our economy, help create jobs and preserve the American dream for our kids and our grandchildren.
"Bill Gunter knows what's important to Pasco County, Rubio insisted.
In the meantime, Fasano has asked both sides to withhold from using his name in their campaign literature and commercials though both sides have cited him.A poll released this week revealed why Fasanos endorsement matters so much in this race, even as he tries to remain neutral. Peter Schorsch over at St. PetersBlog commissioned St. Pete Polls to look at the race between Gunter and Murphy. The poll finds the two candidates knotted together with 44 percent apiece.
The poll also shows Fasano could make a major difference in the race. Having represented the area for almost 20 years in the Legislature, Fasano has not endorsed fellow Republican Gunter or Murphy, limiting his involvement to posting on Twitter. The poll finds only 18 percent of those surveyed would be less likely to vote for a candidate with Fasanos endorsement, while almost half -- 49 percent -- said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who has Fasanos blessing.
The poll of 310 registered voters was taken on Sept. 30 and had a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percent.
The special election will be held on Oct. 15.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @KevinDerbySSN.