Bill Bunting staved off a mutiny Tuesday from opponents who tried to oust him as the local Republican Party chairman. And he likely has clinched a new post as Pasco's GOP state committeeman.
Bunting, 67, had a narrow lead Tuesday night over John Renke II, who has held the state committeeman post since 1994.
By December, Bunting must choose between being party chairman or state committeeman. He said he probably would lean toward the committeeman job.
"I feel like the people will decide it — I've worked hard. … but negative campaigning is something that I didn't do and I won't do," said Bunting, alluding to the fliers this campaign that mentioned his arrests for petty crimes nearly 50 years ago.
A GOP power struggle led Bunting to challenge Renke, 62, for the party leadership position. Renke declined to comment Tuesday night.
In the meantime, Bunting easily turned back a challenge by eight neighbors who tried to oust him and his wife, Ann, from their Precinct 118 posts. In order to remain as chairman of the local Republican Party, Bunting must be a precinct member of the Republican executive committee.
Both Buntings — who said their critics had given the local party little help — were clearly atop the leading four vote-getters in their precinct, necessary to keeping their posts.
Bunting had tried to get those challengers and 19 others booted from the ballot.
But that contest paled compared to the Bunting-Renke power struggle. Bunting said Renke didn't work hard enough. Renke said he refused to go along with Bunting on political decisions.
Their campaign turned unusually feisty, with a recorded call for Bunting by Gov. Charlie Crist, an anonymous attack mailer against Bunting and a tough mailing by Renke last weekend.
David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.