Former Florida governor Charlie Crist endorses Amanda Murphy for Pasco State House seat

10/03/13 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Charlie Crist, Mike Fasano, Pasco County, Florida House of Representatives, Amanda Murphy


Former Florida governor Charlie Crist endorses Amanda Murphy for the Pasco district in the State House.

photo by Janelle Irwin

Former Florida governor Charlie Crist is endorsing Democrat Amanda Murphy for the Pasco County state house seat up for special election this month. The former Republican turned Democrat is rumored to be planning a bid for governor against Rick Scott next year, but during the endorsement announcement Thursday in Port Richey, mum was still the word.

“I haven’t made that announcement or decision yet, but said I would probably come to a conclusion by the fall and I’m sure I will.”

Instead, Crist, said he wanted to focus on Amanda Murphy’s grassroots campaign to turn the Pasco-area seat in the House from Red to Blue.

“Little guys and little gals don’t get a fair shot and a fair chance and that’s not right. You know, Tallahassee has become a place that looks at corporations and not people. So we have to have people who care about everyday Floridians get elected to office so they can be advocates for us. Enough is enough. We’ve got to turn this thing around. And it starts right here in Pasco County. It starts right here with Amanda Murphy. This is where it begins.”

Pasco County voters will decide on October 15th who will replace former State Representative Mike Fasano who was appointed by the governor as the county’s tax collector. One of the issues Fasano championed was overturning the law he originally supported allowing energy companies to collect nuclear cost recovery fees from customers in advance. Critics say that could lead to rate payers paying for repairs and facilities that never come to fruition. Murphy told about 50 Tampa Bay area supporters she would continue that fight.

“That will add money back to our school system immediately. Our school system that needs to be funded. Do you know that we’re not funding our children’s education to a proper level. We need to get back to the proper level. At least get back to the 2007 level. Give our kids hope. Without hope what do you have?

Murphy also wants to tackle soaring rates among Citizens Property Insurance customers. Pasco County is rife with sinkhole claims and has some of the highest rates in the region.

“If we don’t get Citizens Insurance under control, where are we going to be? Where are they going to be because we’re all going to leave our homes – no one is going to be able to afford it – and then they’ll feel it, but that’s not going to happen. I’m not going to let that happen. Murphy’s opponent, Bill Gunter, has been endorsed by several Tallahassee lawmakers including House Speaker Will Weatherford. But the Murphy campaign has expressed concern a Gunter victory could mean furthering the Republican stronghold. Even as a former Tallahassee insider, Crist said his endorsement is different than Republicans backing Gunter.

“Because I’m from here; I’m from Tampa Bay and I care deeply about it and this is not a race about Tallahassee, this is a race about the people of Tampa Bay and Pasco County in particular and that’s why I know Amanda’s heart is here. She cares about the people that are here and having somebody who’s also from Tampa Bay – home of the Rays by the way – I think is a very good thing. Those of us who know her and know her best are all supporting her.”

Crist changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent prior to his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2011 and then to Democrat last year. Many have raised the specter that the party hopping is politically charged opportunism. Patty King, a Pasco County Democrat who’s been campaigning for Murphy, said she has heard some hesitation about the former governor’s endorsement.

“And then I say, ‘my husband is a 50-year Republican.’ He has now been a Democrat since 2007. He supported Charlie Crist back then, but he is now totally, 100% supporting Amanda. We’re DEC members and he – again – he saw the light. It’s just an extreme that we can’t live with.”

Crist mingled with constituents after his endorsement never straying far from Murphy and often with an arm around her waist. Though he wouldn’t say whether he’d be running for governor next year, Crist did oblige some hypothetical questions about what he’d do with the state’s top spot including how to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in Florida.

“I would do everything I could. I think all of us, whether you’re governor or any office or just citizens, all of us, I think, enjoy watching the Rays all the time. They’re doing incredibly well. I talked to Stuart Sternberg earlier this week and wished him luck and so far so good and I hope they do well in Boston, but we’ve got to keep them in Florida.”

Early voting in the special election between Amanda Murphy and Bill Gunter starts on Saturday and runs through October 12 at the West Pasco Government Center. Election Day is October 15.

After this story aired, Gunter offered this statement:

"There are many prominent supporters of my campaign such as Senator Marco Rubio, former Governor Jeb Bush, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Sheriff Chris Nocco, and countless others who work hard every day to improve our communities and fight for our families and seniors.

"Ultimately, the most important endorsement in this campaign will be the ones offered by voters. I anticipate that my positive message of strengthening our economy, repealing the nuclear cost recovery fee, and opposing Citizens Insurance rate increases will earn me that support."

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