Bitter rivals debate, just not on shared stage

When it comes to pure personal animosity, nothing beats this year's race for Pasco's Republican state committeeman. And nothing elicits barbs like the time-honored custom of debating about whether candidates should debate.

This brings us to Dan Meahl, a Republican activist in Hudson. He reserved the auditorium in the Beacon Woods Civic Association to host a debate between incumbent committeeman Bill Bunting and challenger Steve Simon, a former county commissioner.

Simon accepted the invitation to the debate, which is scheduled for Wednesday. Will Bunting join him?

Of course not. Bunting, who also lives in Beacon Woods, said Meahl "has a personal hatred for me." Plus, he said his schedule is full that night.

"Even if I didn't have the busy schedule, why would I go there?" he said, adding that Meahl could stack the crowd with other Bunting critics.

He said he and Simon recently had an impromptu debate at an East Pasco tea party meeting. "He had his debate, and as far as I'm concerned he lost his debate," Bunting said.

Simon said he considers himself the better communicator and said he's not surprised Bunting declined the invite.

"I would not imagine he would like to sit in a side-by-side comparison," he said. He acknowledged Bunting's expertise on gun-related issues, but said, "once you engage in any other arena outside of that, I think there's a deficit."

Mariano defends donation from former mayor's wife

Two-term Commissioner Jack Mariano said Thursday that he has no regrets about accepting a $100 contribution from Averill Rober, the wife of former Port Richey Mayor Richard Rober, who resigned in the spring. The couple pleaded guilty in May to conspiring to defraud the federal government by hiding more than $239,000 from the IRS.

Mariano said he didn't think of the case when he accepted the donation in late June. "People aren't perfect," he said.

"They had donated to me last time, and they wanted to donate to me again," he said. "I'm thankful they're supporting me."

He later added: "I didn't think of it then. Now that I am thinking of it, if they sent me another $100, I'd take that, too."

Mariano said the donation is a small matter compared to major economic development policies he has pushed. He also pointed to a series of donations from Shady Hills residents who appreciated his efforts to spike the proposed Lago Verde limerock mine.

GOP primary races drawing plenty of party switchers

The bulk of the races on the Aug. 14 ballot are limited to Republicans, though Democrats and no-party voters can cast ballots in judicial elections, a School Board campaign and two open primaries for County Commission. So, what's a Democrat to do if he or she wants to vote in, say, the school superintendent race? Switch parties, of course.

Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley crunched the numbers and said 1,425 Democrats and independents changed their registration to Republican between March 1 and the deadline to register for the primary. Note to candidates: It's a good bet those voters won't sit out this election.

Commission hopeful gets more Tallahassee love

Need more evidence that some in the political establishment are rallying behind Bill Gunter, the minister taking on Jack Mariano? Campaign finance reports show he's received maximum $500 contributions from political committees associated with the following lawmakers: Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity; Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples; Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa; and Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee.

Fasano said the donation doesn't mean he is making an endorsement in the District 5 race. "If Commissioner Mariano were to come to our (committee) and ask for a donation, I'm sure they would consider his request."

East Pasco candidates spend big down the stretch

District 1 County Commission candidate Ron Oakley recently put another $50,000 of his own money into his campaign to unseat incumbent Ted Schrader. That puts Oakley's personal investment up to nearly $100,000, along with $3,500 more from family members. The latest sum went toward buying TV time, producing the commercial and a flier sent to absentee voters.

The ad is largely positive, with Oakley saying he's running because "we need leaders more concerned about creating jobs than protecting their own." Schrader also spent about $16,000 on TV time. He said his ad highlights accomplishments from his three terms in office.

"I'm in no way counting on anything," he said. "I know it's going to be a close, close race."

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236. For more political news visit The Buzz at blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.

Bitter rivals debate, just not on shared stage 07/28/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 4:15pm]

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