Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

Ed Collins, former Pasco commissioner, dies at 75

NEW PORT RICHEY — Ed Collins’ first political race in Pasco County came three decades ago and pitted him against a field of five other candidates for the right to represent Precinct 66 in the Pasco Republican Executive Committee.

The size of the precinct around the Forest Hills neighborhood meant the top two vote-getters would earn committee seats. Mr. Collins, who had moved to Pasco two years earlier from New York, finished second. He was never ashamed of finishing nine votes behind another neophyte in the race – 23-year-old Richard Corcoran.

"They laughed about that for years,’’ said Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a close friend to both.

Recalling that race, Corcoran said he "knew then that Ed was an honorable, principled fighter who would do great things for the county. He never disappointed.’’

Corcoran is now speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Mr. Collins went on to win the vice chairmanship of the local party and then two terms on the Pasco County Commission ending in 1998. He also served on the board of the former West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority, notably representing Pasco’s interests in the water wars over groundwater pumping in central and east Pasco to serve regional utility customers in Pinellas and Hillsborough.

Mr. Collins died Dec. 30 after a lengthy illness. He was 75.

Voters elected him to the County Commission in 1990 where he ousted Democratic incumbent Sonny Safranek by capturing support amid an anti-incumbent fervor and the popular budget-cutting promises of the Reagan era. His victory, and that of fellow Republican Bonnie Zimmer, gave Republicans a 4-1 majority on the commission at a time when Democrats were still the superior party in Pasco.

Democrats would contend Collins only sharpened his budget-cutting when it came to requests from Sheriff Lee Cannon, a Democrat. The two battled politically for six years, and Mr. Collins’ famously took a lie-detector test to try to validate his contention that Cannon promised to "squash him like a bug.’’ The polygraph results were inconclusive.

Mr. Collins, initially a critic of county government, later became a staunch supporter of the performance of County Administrator John Gallagher. But Mr. Collins’ own critics said the commissioner’s annual push for "no new people, no new programs’’ in county government also left Pasco poorly prepared for the challenges that came with a growth boom. But by his final year in office, the county added two dozen deputies and a handful of code enforcement officers.

Mr. Collins won a tough re-election battle in 1994, but lost four years later to a Cannon-backed unknown named Steve Simon whose prior political experience was limited to a homeowners’ association. At the time, even Republicans suggested the incumbent focused too much attention on campaign contributors rather than a broader constituency.

"Things just changed a little bit,’’ said Fasano. "Sometimes being a county commissioner you don’t become the most popular person because of the controversial votes you have to make. There were a lot of new people in the central and east part of county, and I think they just didn’t know Ed.’’

Mr. Collins, who publicly acknowledged his battles with alcohol, was a volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and later advocated for the local group Enraged People Against Rape. After his defeat at the polls, he lobbied in Tallahassee and did local political consulting work. In 2012, he entered his name in the political arena again. He ran as a write-in candidate for Pasco school superintendent to close the GOP primary and prevent Democrats and independents from voting in the race against incumbent Superintendent Heather Fiorentino and eventual winner Kurt Browning.

"Only Republicans should vote in Republican primaries,’’ Mr. Collins said at the time.

Fasano, whose own political career was jump-started in 1994, the year Mr. Collins won re-election, called Mr. Collins one of his most loyal supporters. "Even when I did some not-so-smart things, Ed was always there to back me up.’’

Fasano said when he traveled to Tallahassee for legislative duties, Mr. Collins would look in on the representative’s mother and even made sure she had money available to play her beloved bingo games.

Thomas B. Dobies Funeral Home, 6616 Congress St. in New Port Richey, is in charge of arrangements.

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18