Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Editorials

Helping a neighbor, hurting electorate

The personal political aspirations of Joseph Verola, a candidate for a state House of Representative seat based in west Pasco, should be no surprise. He has none. Verola is the next-door neighbor of attorney Jim Mathieu of Port Richey who does have political aspirations. Mathieu, an officer with the Pasco Republican Executive Committee and a former city attorney and interim manger for the city of Port Richey is a candidate for the state Legislature.

His announced opponents (so far) are Republicans Michael Kennedy of Hudson and Sen. Mike Fasano, a well-known and widely popular politician who, nonetheless, is held in disdain by the leadership of his own local party. There is no Democratic candidate and Verola, in filing as a write-in candidate, resurrected a now familiar ploy to disenfranchise Democratic Party and independent voters.

It's a game both parties play with the laws governing open primary elections. If no Democratic candidate emerges, all voters should be entitled to vote in the Aug. 14 Republican primary. But Mathieu's next-door neighbor closed the primary with his write-in candidacy so only Republicans can cast ballots.

It's a sham used every election cycle by candidates gaming the system. If nothing else, give Verola points for being candid. He admitted he filed to try to benefit Mathieu, who didn't want to give non-Republicans an opportunity to support Fasano.

The scheme drew the ire of the Pasco Democratic Party chairman who lamented 65,000 registered voters in the district wouldn't get a chance to elect their representative in Tallahassee. His angst is understandable, but here's a more productive thought: Field a slate of candidates who will make closing this loophole a legislative priority.

Candidates for public office should aspire to lead, not simply to help out the guy next door.

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