Bill Stevens column: Why Mike Fasano remains a powerful player
Tampa Bay Times columnist Bill Stevens has a nice column explaining why he doesn't think Mike Fasano is headed into obscurity as the new Pasco tax collector. An excerpt:
The rock star treatment Fasano got from the governor and others illustrated more than their admiration of his considerable debating skills or his 19 years in the House and Senate. He has become enormously popular, and not just in Pasco.
A nod from Fasano can deliver votes, maybe even swing an election. And all those men slapping him on the back the other day know it. He might have a new office, but he's not giving up being a kingmaker. Politics is his passion. He'll enjoy his role as local GOP godfather, much as Olson did many years for the Democrats.
But while Olson served effectively and honorably for 32 years, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see Fasano, 55, seek another office someday.
Once known more as a party loyalist assigned to ensure lockstep with the leadership, Fasano has evolved into an effective maverick. He was the only House Republican who supported expanding Medicaid benefits, consistent with his history of advocating for the poor and vulnerable. When he expresses outrage over utilities gouging customers or a fat cat judge wasting money on an opulent "Taj Mahal'' courthouse, he makes you want to yell, "Right on!''
He has changed, all right, and in the process changed a lot of attitudes about him. Longtime Pasco politicos who once locked horns with a young Fasano now admire his record in Tallahassee, his tenacity to make sure Pasco didn't get left behind in the competition for state funds. But more than anything, Fasano has become legendary for constituent service.