Pasco's Republican Party has the welcome sign in plain view.
The all-inclusive group — as long as you believe in less government and less taxes — ran an advertisement in the central Pasco edition of the St. Petersburg Times four days ago under the signature of party chairman, Bill Bunting. It welcomed "conservative'' independents and Democrats to switch, to visit with candidates at local Republican clubs and to participate in the Aug. 26 state and local primary election.
Bunting said in an interview he took out the advertisement because newly transplanted residents are unfamiliar with Florida's closed primary system that prevents crossover voting. The advertisement even skipped on the obvious antagonistic element that Democrats should switch parties because their votes from the Jan. 29 presidential primary remain in limbo.
Here's a portion of the ad's text:
"The Republican Party of Pasco is known for standing for 'core' Republican principals: less government and less taxes. A person who has to feed a family, make a mortgage payment and balance a household budget knows what responsibility is. That is something I hope we can all agree upon. Who is elected to office to support your beliefs is more important than ever.''
Stop the presses. Bill Bunting and I agree on something. It is the execution of said beliefs where things can get sticky.
Like, Bunting contributed personally in 2007 to the political campaigns of a pair of college students running in municipal elections. Neither had to feed a family, make a mortgage payment or balance a household budget.
One of the two, incumbent Zephyrhills Council member Danny Burgess, also received a $250 contribution from the party in the nonpartisan election. Burgess demonstrated his fiscally conservative nature by returning $100 to the GOP after his re-election.
You also have to wonder about encouraging Democrats and independents to switch "so your voice will be heard to determine the best Republican.''
Funny, but four years ago Bunting hand-delivered the campaign papers for an irrelevant write-in candidate for Pasco school superintendent to try to make sure those same voices wouldn't be heard. Bunting wanted to take advantage of a legal loophole, close the Republican primary, disenfranchise Democrats and independents and try to deliver the superintendent's race to the party's favored candidate, Heather Fiorentino. The tactic became moot when the Democrats fielded their own candidate.
This year, one of the high profile races in Pasco is for District One county commissioner in which two-term incumbent Ted Schrader (no friend of Bunting's) is challenged by Tampa firefighter/east Pasco rancher John Nicolette and former Zephyrhills council member Gina King. All are Republicans.
So, is another write-in candidacy planned in order to keep 166,000 Democrats and independents from casting a ballot in that race?
"I haven't given it much thought,'' said Bunting, "but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens.''
He suggested the question would be better posed to the three candidates. Okay, here goes: Which one of you will accept the advice of Bunting and scrounge for a write-in candidate?
Though the GOP advertisement is aimed at the electorate in the August primaries, it is worth noting the Pasco Republican Party was the first contributor to a pair of Port Richey candidates running in the April 8 municipal election. The party donated $250 each to Port Richey City Council members Dale Massad and Nancy Britton.
Here is a sample of their track records of which Bunting said he was ignorant: Massad voted to hire Britton's live-in boyfriend, James Mathieu, as city attorney and then went into business with him on an investment property in Port Richey.
Massad and Britton wanted to overspend for a vacant, dilapidated mobile home park on the city's east side with no vision for what the property would be used.
Massad and Britton also authorized a $5,000 cover-your-behind study of the mismanaged permit application for the city's canal dredging project that has cost the public $465,000, but yielded no permits.
It is a record of putting chums on the payroll, becoming business partners with someone you supervise and championing reckless spending of public money.
No matter what your party affiliation, does that record meet your idea of responsible governing?