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NRA turns heads by endorsing Bill Bunting's opponent in committeeman race



Most politicos in Tampa Bay think one thing when they hear about Pasco County’s Bill Bunting. Guns.

That’s why the latest endorsement in Bunting’s reelection campaign for GOP state committeeman is so puzzling. The National Rifle Association is backing Bunting’s opponent, former county commissioner Steve Simon.

“We have found that Mr. Simon’s opponent has a habit of endorsing candidates that are not the candidates endorsed by the NRA,” said Marion Hammer, the group’s lobbyist in Tallahassee. Hammer declined to elaborate, saying the group runs positive campaigns about the people it supports.

Bunting’s gun credibility is hard to deny. He’s been the Second Amendment chairman for the Republican Party of Florida since 2006. He teaches concealed carry certification classes. He even has a life-sized tattoo of a .45-caliber pistol near his left shoulder blade. Some local Republicans complain he is actually too focused on gun issues.

All that leads Bunting to conclude that the endorsement is personal. “I supported Marco Rubio, while she supported Charlie Crist. And I won,” Bunting said, referring to the 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate. “And she doesn’t like to lose a battle.”

The news was turning heads Monday afternoon. It even caused Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, to question whether the endorsement is fake.

“There is no one I know in the whole Tampa Bay area who has been more identified with the second amendment than Bill Bunting,” he said. “That’s just bizarre. That is just a petty personal vendetta of some sort.” (See full story here.)

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