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Florida Republican stalwart Bill Bunting dies at 79

The state committeeman helped build the GOP into the dominant party in Pasco County.
Bill Bunting says the Pledge of Allegiance at the Republican National Convention in New York's Madison Square Garden in 2004.  Mr. Bunting passed away Dec. 24 after a short illness. [COLIN HACKLEY  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Bill Bunting says the Pledge of Allegiance at the Republican National Convention in New York's Madison Square Garden in 2004. Mr. Bunting passed away Dec. 24 after a short illness. [COLIN HACKLEY | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 6

Bill Bunting, who battled Republicans and Democrats alike to help build the GOP into the dominant political party in Pasco County, died Christmas Eve after a short illness. He was 79.

“He loved what he did. He believed in the country, and he worked for what he thought was best for his country,’’ said his wife, Ann.

The Republican Party announced Mr. Bunting’s passing Monday morning. There will be no public services.

“For those who knew him, few could argue he was the hardest working, non-salaried, elected official in Florida. Bill didn’t talk about what he was going to do; he was a true leader who led from the front. He was a doer and had no time for do-littles in politics,’’ Randy Evans, chairman of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee, said in an email to party members.

Mr. Bunting pushed Floridians to obtain their concealed weapons licenses and taught classes as a National Rifle Association instructor. One of his last efforts in 2019 was a petition drive for 50-state reciprocity of concealed permits, said Evans.

Mr. Bunting served as the Pasco Republican State Committeeman for 11 years after earlier chairing the Republican Executive Committee. Under his watch, Republicans surpassed Democrats in voter registration and in the number of elected office-holders. Today, all partisan offices in Pasco County are held by Republicans. Mr. Bunting also advocated tirelessly for Republicans seeking statewide and national offices.

Mr. Bunting’s work, however, stretched beyond party politics. He championed both aesthetic and safety improvements for his Beacon Woods neighborhood by installing trees in medians and persuading the county to build sidewalks along Majestic Boulevard.

Mr. Bunting was known both for that strong work ethic and for a brash personal style. The infighting with a former party chairman grew so raucous in 2000 that the state party banned Mr. Bunting from the local executive committee for two years.

Related: With refusal to renew charter, Pasco's oldest GOP club is no longer

“Bill was a hard-working person, and he did a lot for the Republican Party in Pasco County. ... He was very successful with the annual Reagan Day dinners they had and raised a lot of money for the Pasco Republican Executive Committee. I have no doubt the executive committee and party will miss him,’’ said Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who butted heads with Bunting on more than one occasion.

“That’s politics. If you’re going to be in politics, that’s what happens, sometimes more often than you wish. Bottom line is, he was a hard-working individual who did good things for the Republican Executive Committee and the Republican Party,’’ Fasano said.

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