Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Three Republicans running in state House primary to replace Mike Fasano

NEW PORT RICHEY — Tuesday's Republican primary seemingly offers something for everyone: a newcomer, a political veteran and a minister who ran for office last year.

The three Republicans aiming to replace Mike Fasano in the state House share some views and differ on others, namely Internet sales taxes, school funding and their legislative priorities.

Political novice Jeromy Harding, 23, works at a family-run insurance company. He said he decided to run after hearing friends and neighbors complain about insurance premiums, sinkholes and private utilities.

As a legislator, he said he would push for better water quality and in some cases the takeover of private utilities with track records of poor service.

He'd also push for more accurate property valuations by Citizens Property Insurance. Inflated valuations are partly to blame for higher premiums, he said. Also, more competition by private insurers would help drive rates lower.

In a Times questionnaire, Harding further noted, "It may be necessary for Citizens to gradually increase premiums over the next few years to encourage people back into the private market."

Harding hasn't formed an opinion on whether Internet sales should be taxed and said he backs increased funding for classrooms but not school administration.

Attorney James Mathieu, 60, chairs Pasco's Republican Party and is president of Athenian Academy of Pasco Charter School. He said he decided to run because many legislators are not taking time to thoroughly read bills before casting their votes. Mathieu said he would bring an informed perspective to Tallahassee.

A former Port Richey city attorney and ward leader in Philadelphia, Mathieu not only is knowledgeable about the legislative process, but he wrote several ordinances himself, including the state's first red-light camera ordinance.

He said his top legislative priority is education. He supports school vouchers and increased state funding for schools overall, but he opposes state dollars going to school construction.

He backs standardized testing but draws a line at Common Core, the federal testing program to gauge student proficiency state to state. The program would put too much control in federal hands, taking it from state and local officials, he said.

Mathieu supports a cap on Citizens' insurance rates and increased competition from private insurers to lower rates. He said Internet sales should be taxed to create parity between Web-based companies and traditional businesses.

Bill Gunter, 43, is a Presbyterian minister at Redeemer Community Church in Port Richey. He ran unsuccessfully last year for County Commission against Jack Mariano.

Supported by House Speaker Will Weatherford, Rep. Richard Corcoran, Sheriff Chris Nocco, schools superintendent Kurt Browning as well as several lobbyists, Gunter has emerged as a favorite among the candidates.

He said he decided to run after hearing church members and friends complain about property insurance, sinkhole costs, utility rates and other issues. His legislative priority if elected is economic development. He said he would leverage his position to bring industry to Pasco to create jobs. He also suggested partnering with grass roots groups such as Metropolitan Ministries to help people access jobs and housing.

He favors school vouchers and standardized testing but opposes increased state funding for education, saying the private sector should play a larger role in education. Regarding Common Core, Gunter offered a nuanced view.

"We must look at it all and figure out which standards achieve the greatest outcomes for our schoolchildren," he said.

He believes Citizens' rates should be capped and that laws governing sinkhole repairs should be overhauled to eliminate some costly requirements for homeowners. He opposes Internet sales taxes.

All three candidates back the state's Stand Your Ground self-defense law. They also support a drug database to fight prescription drug abuse. Gunter has personal reasons for backing the database. He admitted to doing drugs and drinking in high school and college and had a brother who died from drug abuse. He's often talked about the perils of drugs in sermons and hasn't tried to hide his past.

The three are running to represent District 36, which generally runs west of Little Road from Hernando to Pinellas. Of the three, two live outside the district — Harding and Gunter — and would need to move to the district before the Supervisor of Elections certifies the Oct. 15 general election results. Tuesday's primary is open only to Republicans in District 36. Democrat Amanda Murphy was not challenged.

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

 
Comments
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18
Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is "locked and loaded," ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again."I spoke to the president...
Published: 04/14/18
Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

WASHINGTON — As he declares the U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria a success, President Donald Trump is adopting a phrase that a previous president came to regret — "mission accomplished." On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "A perfectly executed strike last ...
Published: 04/14/18