Mike Fasano has identified with the Republican Party since he turned 18 and could cast a vote for Ronald Reagan.
He carried the party banner as majority leader in the Florida House and president pro tempore of the Florida Senate. He’s still Pasco County’s elected Republican tax collector, first appointed by former governor Rick Scott.
But with Donald Trump as its national leader, Fasano said, the party has lost its way. On Thursday, as Trump arrived in Tampa for an election rally, Fasano took to social media to offer his support for Democrat Joe Biden.
“I’m as Republican as it gets. A conservative Republican," he said in his minute-long video endorsement. "But Donald Trump is an embarrassment, to our party, to our country and to the rest of the world.”
In a telephone interview, Fasano acknowledged he could have remained silent. Four years ago, he didn’t talk much about his opposition to Trump, whom he didn’t vote for as he skipped the presidential choices on the ballot for the first time since he started filling out ballots.
“But it got to the point where I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to speak up,'” Fasano said. “Especially as an elected Republican official, not to say anything is a copout.”
Trump’s behavior, comments and demeanor have taken decency out of the White House, he suggested, and should not be acceptable to Republicans.
“I didn’t change my philosophy,” he said. “The party has changed under Donald Trump, and it’s concerning to me.”
After the ad came out, reaction was mostly positive. Even among those who questioned the endorsement decision, few challenged Fasano’s integrity or action.
Fasano said he got calls from some fellow Republicans thanking him for speaking out for country over party.
“But it’s early yet,” he added with a chuckle.
Perhaps the biggest criticism he received was for waiting until five days before the election to say something. Already, millions of Florida voters have cast their ballots.
“Shame on me for waiting too long,” Fasano said, taking that view to heart. “I probably should have spoken out long ago.”
This does not mark his first time supporting a Democrat in a competitive race. He also backed Democrat Amanda Murphy in the 2013 race to succeed him in the House, and Democrat Charlie Crist over Rick Scott in the 2014 governor’s race.
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