County Commission hopeful Chris Gregg sent out a second satirical flier late last week attacking opponent Kathryn Starkey as a "RINO" — a Republican In Name Only. The mail piece depicts a rhinoceros with lipstick hauling a "RINO Moving Inc" trailer across a dotted line into District 3. In the background is a small castle dubbed "Starkey Land." It also accuses Starkey of agreeing with the campaign's Democratic nominee, Matt Murphy, on several issues.
Starkey is the presumed frontrunner in the five-person Republican primary to replace longtime Commissioner Ann Hildebrand. She has a wide fundraising lead and has been endorsed by Hildebrand and House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford. She also got the nod from Pasco's two law enforcement groups and the firefighters union.
"I feel confident in that I've been endorsed by many conservative Republican leaders," she said. "I'm just going to focus on running my good, clean campaign and focus on the issues. I don't think Mr. Gregg's attacks are going to have any impact."
By the way, Weatherford's endorsement came with more than just a nice news release. A political committee associated with the incoming speaker recently paid for a flier lauding Starkey as "our conservative voice in Pasco County."
Absentee voting total already exceeds 2010
More than 10,400 Pasco voters had returned mail ballots as of Friday afternoon. That figure already exceeds the total absentees from the 2010 primary, which saw a high turnout because of a heated GOP gubernatorial race. Early voting began Saturday and runs through Aug. 11. People can drop off completed ballots at early-voting sites. But if voters wait until Election Day, they have to return their absentee ballot at an elections office.
Corley offers some early voting reminders
Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley has a friendly reminder for candidates: Commissioners last summer adopted a new sign policy for county-owned polling sites. The policy limits candidates to two signs at each location. Signs cannot be bigger than 16 square feet, and the top cannot be more than 36 inches off the ground. Signs collected by county staffers can be picked up for $10 apiece.
We've also heard from a few voters wondering whether only Republicans can vote in the primary. The answer is no. Many races are limited to GOP voters, but the nonpartisan campaign for School Board and several judicial races are open to all voters. That's also the case for winner-take-all County Commission campaigns in Districts 1 and 5.
Big names come to Bunting's defense
The race for GOP state committeeman is suddenly high profile after Bill Bunting was hit last week with a negative flier and snubbed by the NRA. He is being challenged by former Commissioner Steve Simon for the unpaid party post.
After those political hits, some big names are coming to his defense. Will Weatherford, whose political committee gave $5,500 to Bunting's campaign, acknowledged some people might not agree with Bunting's style. But he called him one of the county's "hardest-working Republicans." Senate candidate Wilton Simpson of Trilby echoed that theme, saying, "he's one of those guys that will take a lot of bullets for the party."
Corcoran's wife seeks charter school again
Anne Corcoran, the wife of state Rep. Richard Corcoran of Trinity, reapplied this week to open Classical Preparatory Academy charter school. Unlike last year's application, Weatherford is not listed on the advisory board. (He'll be plenty busy over the next few years as House speaker.) But the board does include a few big names: retired Sheriff Bob White and Patricia Levesque, a key adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush.
The Corcorans also welcomed their sixth child into the world this week. Evangeline Whitfield Corcoran was born late Monday night, weighing in at 6 pounds, measuring 19 inches. Check out the @richardcorcoran Twitter feed for a cute baby photo.
Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report. Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236. For more political news, visit The Buzz at blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.