NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco Democrats had vetted two candidates to run for the state House seat vacated by Mike Fasano, but they didn’t want an ugly, expensive primary before the Oct. 15 special election.
So Party Chairman Lynn Lindeman said they asked the state Democratic Party’s House Victory committee to choose the strongest candidate. That turned out to be Amanda Murphy, a New Port Richey native who works as a vice president of investments for Raymond James Financial.
“I am excited for the road ahead,” Murphy said. “The residents of West Pasco deserve a representative who will not fall in line with special interests. Representative Fasano fought for what was right for this district. I thank him for his dedication to Pasco families and I look to continue that tradition of service.”
Democrats see this as their best chance to break the logjam Republicans have held for the last decade in Pasco County. District 36 actually has more registered Democrats than Republicans, plus more than 20,000 voters with no party affiliation. And the district voted for President Barack Obama in the last two elections. Murphy joins a field that includes three Republicans and an independent.
“We see it as a pure toss-up district,” said Chris Mitchell, political director for House Victory. “We’ve been doing our due diligence behind the scenes to bring coalitions together. We want to make sure we’re united behind one candidate and not have a bloody primary like you’re about to see on the Republican side.”
The Sept. 17 primary features a showdown between two distinct wings of the Republican Party. The GOP establishment wing led by House Speaker Will Weatherford has quickly endorsed the Rev, Bill Gunter, a Presbyterian pastor, who failed to unseat County Commissioner Jack Mariano last year. While the tea party wing, led by State Committeeman Bill Bunting, is backing attorney Jim Mathieu, president of the local Republican Executive Committee, who lost a primary election for the same House seat to Fasano.
Insurance agent Jeromy Harding, a New Port Richey Republican, and no-party candidate Richard Thomas Sikes, a disabled veteran, have also filed to run.
Murphy, 43, is a board member of Leadership Pasco, the Trinity Rotary, the Junior Service League, and the PACE Center for Girls. She also holds a position in the West Pasco Community Service Council and volunteers her time with the United Way.
Her husband, Matt Murphy, was the Democratic nominee last year for the District 3 commission seat but lost to Republican Kathryn Starkey. She has never sought political office before and said she was humbled to be selected from a list of 20 potential candidates for the seat.
“When elected I plan on focusing on the needs of my district,” Murphy said in a release. “I will focus on eliminating road blocks to economic success for many of our Pasco families, such as repealing the nuclear recovery fee that exploits the wallets of Pasco families and taxpayers.”
She is the third candidate in the race who actually lives outside of the West Pasco district. Harding is buying a house in the district, and Gunter has pledged to move if elected.