Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Politics

Three vie for Pasco commission District 2 GOP primary

WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco Republicans have a choice among two up-and-comers and a political veteran for the District 2 County Commission primary election.

Ken Littlefield served in the state House from 1999 to 2006. He ran against Commissioner Pat Mulieri in 2010, losing in the primary. Littlefield, 70, says he enjoys making public policy, which is why he jumped back into politics.

Bob Robertson, 57, a financial adviser, serves on the county's Library Advisory Board and Restore Act Committee. Until a month ago, he also served on the Lake Bernadette Community Development District, an elected position he had held since 2008. He says he's passionate about community service and wants to bring that enthusiasm to the commission.

And Mike Moore, a 43-year-old business owner, says the commission needs fresh ideas. He's making his first run for public office since a failed bid in 2010 for a mosquito control district position — but in some ways he's the odds-on favorite.

Moore has amassed the biggest campaign chest and enjoys the most clout as president of the Wesley Chapel Republican Club. He's also piled up endorsements, from Sheriff Chris Nocco and Commission Chairman Jack Mariano to state House Speaker Will Weatherford and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

Campaign finance reports show Moore has pulled in more than $90,000 and spent more than $65,000 on his campaign. In contrast, Littlefield has raised barely $9,000 and Robertson about $13,000. Together, the two have spent about $17,000 — roughly a quarter of what Moore has spent.

The money could be key. With 15,000 more Republicans than Democrats in Pasco, Republicans are favorites by default in general elections, making the primaries the races to watch. The three are vying to take on Democrat Erika Remsberg in November to replace Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who's retiring after 20 years.

Mulieri, meanwhile, has endorsed Robertson, citing his conservative credentials and insight into county government. He attends virtually every commission meeting and was among the first graduates of Pasco's Citizens Academy, which uses tours and lectures to educate citizens about government's inner-workings.

On issues, the three vary only in approach. On transportation, they agree on the need to expand and improve Pasco's roads, but differ over funding the work. Moore backs a gradual approach based on rising property assessments over several years to boost county revenue. In the interim, he'd spend reserve money from highway accounts on high-priority projects.

The other two would take steps to boost road funding now. Robertson backs higher gas taxes, but would lessen the impact on drivers by redirecting revenue from the Real Estate Transfer Fund and by revamping the county's paving assessment program by adding new payment schedules to increase cash flow.

Littlefield said "everything is on the table" when it comes gas taxes, property taxes or a combination to fund road work. "Whatever it takes."

The three also hold similar views on transforming Pasco into "a premier county." Robertson and Moore say job creation is the key. Littlefield said a "robust economy" is the main issue.

Robertson would broaden support for the county's Economic Development Council to attract employers: "While there are numerous housing communities planned for our county, we need to do more now to provide quality jobs for the residents that are already here."

Moore would streamline permitting and create a relocation task force of government and business leaders to market Pasco to businesses looking to move. He said he would "personally seek out companies that are looking to relocate."

Littlefield did not specify how to improve the economy, although he suggested making changes in permitting. He would insist building permits include a provision for services: "Growth must pay for itself and also provide a stream of revenue for maintenance of proposed projects."

Contact Rich Shopes at rshopes @tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236. Follow @richshopes.

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