NEW PORT RICHEY — Ka-CHING: the special election Oct. 15 could shape up as a very expensive campaign as state parties and political action committees help bankroll candidates.
Voters will choose the next state representative for House district 36 to succeed Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who resigned the seat to take the county post.
The choice will fall between Republican Bill Gunter and Democrat Amanda Murphy.
Last month’s campaign finance reports already indicated the heated race has generated large sums through Sept. 12. Gunter’s campaign had logged $93,521 at that early date. Murphy registered $38,587, according to state Division of Elections records.
The latest campaign finance reports are due midnight Friday, Oct. 11, Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley pointed out. A political committee, Families for Lower Taxes, has been mailing flyers supporting Gunter and will be required to file a campaign finance report Oct. 10, he added.
A flurry of flyers has been arriving daily in mailboxes of some voters, especially independents or those with no party affiliation.
The state Democratic and Republican parties have bankrolled many of the full-color, glossy mailers. With less than a week to go, many of the flyers have gone into full attack mode on both sides.
Top political observers from both parties expect the race to be very close when the ballots are counted next Tuesday night.
Independent voters probably could tilt the results to one candidate or another. That’s about the only thing that Democratic leader Michael Cox and Pasco’s Republican state committeeman Bill Bunting probably would agree on.
Cox predicts Murphy prevailing by 4 percent with a 20 percent turnout of voters.
Bunting believes Gunter will walk away with a victory by a 2 percent margin and a 30 percent turnout.
Supervisor of elections numbers pegged turnout at 7.73 percent by Sunday afternoon. The unofficial number includes absentee ballots cast and the first day of early voting. Early voters have until Saturday to cast ballots at West Pasco Government Center.
Corley anticipates a 15 percent final turnout once the dust clears Oct. 16.
“I think it’s going to be a very close race, there’s no question about that,” Bunting said. “I’ve said that from the beginning.”
Bunting frets about a Democrat backing any state choices regarding Obamacare, the mandatory health insurance law. A liberal in the legislature voting on Second Amendment issues about owning firearms is another worry. “We’ve really got to worry about that.”
Cox is concerned that a Republican simply would follow the lead of Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP leadership in the Florida Legislature.
Bunting said he is happy with Scott, who he credits for bringing businesses to the state, working with a balanced budget and lowering unemployment.
Cox stressed another intangible for voters to ponder. “When one party controls everything, it’s never good,” Cox said. He was referring to the Republican stranglehold on elected offices in Pasco.
Bunting said he had filed a complaint with the Division of Elections about a door-knob flyer supporting Murphy. He claimed the language was misleading so that some voters might believe Murphy was the incumbent for state representative. State officials would not confirm or deny receiving the complaint from Bunting.
Fasano said he was trying to stay on the sidelines in the battle to determine his successor.
However, last Thursday, Fasano said he was irritated by an attack ad usurping the use of his name without his permission. The campaign piece came from Citizens for Fairness, a group based in Melbourne, Fla.
Fasano, a Republican, said he cast an absentee ballot for Murphy, a Democrat.
However the race turns out, voters might take some solace that the state Division of Elections will reimburse Pasco County for expenses to stage the elections.
Corley said the special primary on Sept. 17 cost about $85,000. He expects the special election Oct. 15 will cost about the same.