Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Many in Pasco GOP want to jilt Crist for Rubio

HUDSON — When the Pasco GOP sold out its annual Reagan Day dinner four years ago, then-party chairman Bill Bunting knew exactly why.

"Are you kidding me?" he said. "It's Charlie Crist."

Crist, the dinner's featured speaker that year, got a standing ovation and proclaimed Pasco County his back yard. The party faithful lined up beside him on stage, sang his praises and left in vehicles plastered with Crist bumper stickers.

But on Saturday, Bunting and about 70 others reserved the rock-star treatment for Marco Rubio, the man they want to beat Crist in the race for U.S. Senate.

They snapped photographs and cheered on Rubio, clad in blue jeans and a campaign polo shirt, as he spoke at a Hudson fundraiser about everything from the federal deficit to Crist's record to the grass roots movement that is making his run possible.

"You can't run in normal times against the governor in your state," he said. "You can only do it in times like this."

Saturday's fundraiser, held just before the annual National Rifle Association dinner, comes five months after Pasco's Republican Executive Committee held a straw poll that went almost unanimously for Rubio over Crist.

Republican leaders in other counties have held informal polls with similar results, an indication that Crist could have his work cut out for him.

Pasco Republicans attending Rubio's fundraiser said Crist failed to get homeowners insurance under control, appointed a liberal judge to the state Supreme Court and endorsed a federal stimulus package that they believe is a failure.

In short? They said the country is headed in the wrong direction — and they consider the governor part of the problem.

"Crist isn't what he said he was, okay?" said Gary Worthley, a sales agent from Land O'Lakes. "There are many of us, if Rubio does not win (the primary), we will not vote in the election."

"Hugging Obama didn't help," said Port Richey lawyer Jim Mathieu, referring to Crist's appearance with the president while promoting the federal stimulus package.

Mathieu said Rubio was correct to point out that his timing was also good.

"He's in the right time, the right place," he said. "Poor Crist. He was just floating, right?"

Rubio has spoken at a number of events in Pasco, which he has said he expects to win.

"It's a conservative county, a county that's upset with where Washington is taking this country," he said.

Mike Wells, Pasco's property appraiser, praised Rubio as an articulate politician who so far has tapped into a general dissatisfaction with Crist — and offered himself up as a conservative alternative.

"He's a polished politician, no question about it," said Wells. But Rubio has also convinced him he's "the real deal."

"He'll do what he saying on the stump," he said. "I think people are looking for people who'll do what they say they're going to do."

Wells also said he thinks this initial support of Rubio will last — and grow — over the next 10 months.

"I think it's clear Rubio is going to win Pasco County," Wells said.

Not so, said Sen. Mike Fasano, a popular Republican in the county and a strong Crist supporter who says Rubio has overstated his conservative credentials.

Fasano said in an interview last week that the straw poll was not indicative of a larger movement among Republicans and called the executive committee "a small part of the Republican Party."

Fasano did not hesitate when asked if Crist would win Pasco County.

"Oh, my goodness, yes," he said.

Asked about Fasano's support of Crist, Rubio said, "Maybe Mike Fasano supports the stimulus package."

After the fundraiser, most of those in attendance headed over to the Friends of NRA dinner and auction, where Rubio was to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bunting said he had invited Crist to the NRA dinner, too. He never got a reply.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

Many in Pasco GOP want to jilt Crist for Rubio 11/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 7, 2009 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pleasant dreams: sleep travel site gives high marks to Tampa airport


    TAMPA — Traveling might be considered closer to a nightmare than a dream for many. But that might be different for those who travel through Tampa International Airport. It was ranked the No. 3 overall best airport in North America by Sleeping in Airports, a travel site that tracks the best airports to catch some …

    Tampa International Airport was ranked as the No. 3 best overall airport by travel site Sleeping in Airports. | [Times file photo]
  2. Google parent leads $1B Lyft investment, deepening Uber rift


    SAN FRANCISCO — Google's parent company is throwing its financial support behind ride-hailing service Lyft, deepening its rift with market leader Uber.

    This  file photo shows a smartphone displaying the Lyft app.Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., is throwing its financial support behind ride-hailing service Lyft, deepening its rift with market leader Uber. [Associated Press, 2016]
  3. Check out what this former Buc has cooking in Buffalo


    Leonard Johnson is thrilled to extend his NFL career in Buffalo this season, but whenever his playing days are over, the former Bucs cornerback is ready for life after football.

    He's actually pretty excited.

    Buffalo Bills cornerback Leonard Johnson catches a pass during an NFL football training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Saturday, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
  4. Editorial: Arrests show construction licensing board's faults


    Ripping off consumers got a little harder in Pinellas County this week after teams of deputies launched a predawn operation and arrested unlicensed contractors. It was a needed crackdown on a problem that appears rampant in Pinellas because the agency charged with overseeing local contractors has no policing …

    Ripping off consumers got a little harder in Pinellas County this week after teams of deputies executed a predawn operation, arresting unlicensed contractors.
  5. Dade City teen arrested after authorities say he pulled fake gun on student


    DADE CITY — A 14-year-old boy faces felony charges after he pulled a fake gun on a Pasco Middle School student near the school Wednesday afternoon, according to authorities.