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Republican Party chief tells Fasano: Get out

Florida's Republican Party chairman has invited one of Pasco's most visible Republican operators, Mike Fasano, to join the enemy.

Fasano ignored the party switch card GOP chairman Van Poole sent him. But he did fire back a letter suggesting Poole resign. And to make it easier, he enclosed a resignation letter for Poole to sign.

"If you're not sitting on your backside in Tallahassee, you're traveling the world using Republican contributions to pay your expenses. Your lack of diplomacy as demonstrated in your enclosure of a switch card to me is one of the reasons why under your leadership the Republicans took a beating in the last general election in Florida," Fasano wrote Poole.

The war of words between Fasano and Poole follows a beating Fasano took in his own recent campaign for the Republican nomination in House District 46.

Fasano lost the primary to Ken Altman _ and then refused to support Altman, whom he calls untrustworthy. He even paid a visit to the Democratic incumbent, Phil Mishkin, to provide the Democrat with information on Altman. Fasano at the time was finishing his term as a Republican state committeeman, and he resigned early, citing his inability to support the full Republican ticket.

Poole apparently did not take the resignation letter seriously.

"Mike, who do you think you are kidding," Poole wrote Fasano last month. "I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday! You didn't run for state committeeman again. . . . Mike, why don't you accept your defeat gracefully and live the wishes of the majority of Republicans from Pasco County who chose not to nominate you. Your letter (of resignation) lends me to believe you can dish it out but can't take it. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

The exchange between Poole and Fasano occurs as one of Fasano's political allies, former state Rep. John Renke, is rumored to have his eye on Poole's party chairmanship. To be elected party chairman, one needs to be a county chairman or member of the state committee. Renke last month was elected state committeeman to succeed Fasano.

But Renke insists he does not want the job. He said his law practice keeps him too busy to become party chairman.

"I don't have any interest in the position, even if it was wide open," he said.

Renke has been mentioned as a possible candidate for GOP chairman before. Two years ago, when Poole was up for re-election as party chairman, Fasano offered to step down as a state committeeman so that Renke could take the post and then run against Poole. Eventually, Charles Bronson unsuccessfully ran for the job. Fasano nominated Bronson.

"I think it's your sour grapes when you continue to target me just because I led an effort against your re-election as chairman two years ago," Fasano wrote his party chairman.

Fasano has never hesitated to oppose fellow Republicans he disagrees with. Well before his vocal criticism of Altman, he staunchly criticized Republican County Commissioners Ann Hildebrand and Mike Wells.

Gov. Bob Martinez helped get Poole the chairmanship in 1989 to succeed Jeanie Austin.

Several phone calls to Poole's office for comment were not returned. But Renke predicted that if Poole seeks re-election, his success will depend on the outcome of the state Senate races. Republicans hope to win a majority in the Senate.

"If the Republicans do not take the Senate . . . somebody will challenge Van Poole, because he will not have advanced the Republican cause the whole time he's been in there," Renke said.