For the first time in nearly 20 years west Pasco County residents don’t have Mike Fasano advocating for them in the Florida Legislature. Fasano, a Republican, relinquished his state House District 36 seat in August after Gov. Rick Scott appointed him Pasco County tax collector following the sudden death of Mike Olson.
Fasano’s successor has gigantic shoes to fill, especially in the area of constituent service. Fasano, who also served 10 years in the Senate, set a high standard fighting for fair property insurance rates and other consumer issues.
Fortunately, voters have a first-time candidate up to the job in Amanda Murphy, a 43-year-old Democrat who has lived in the district since she was 12.
Also seeking the seat in Tuesday’s special election is Bill Gunter, senior pastor at Redeemer Community Church and a former University of Florida football player. He is a Republican.
Gunter, 43, lost a close race for a Pasco County Commission seat in 2012 in his first bid for public office. As we said then, he is a promising candidate, a man of deep faith. He has been endorsed for the state House by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
But Murphy is, without question, the stronger candidate, and she makes clear that she will put people first, not her political party or party leadership. That view is sorely lacking in Tallahassee, especially in the House.
Murphy, who lives in the New Port Richey area, has an impressive business and community service background. She is a financial adviser and vice president, investments, for Raymond James & Associates, where she has worked since 1999. She volunteers for several organizations, including the PACE Center for Girls, where she helps at-risk youth.
Her work experience and community involvement would serve residents well, especially in constituent service, and she also would be an asset in the Legislature, which needs balance after years of Republican dominance.
Murphy is passionate about education. She supports higher funding, pointing out the importance of a top-notch school system to Florida’s economy and job creation. She also supports expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which the House has rejected. She explains that 1 million Floridians need help and that the cost of using emergency rooms for primary care is passed to residents who have health insurance.
Murphy needs to develop a better understanding of growth management — especially considering the Legislature gutted the state’s growth management act a few years ago. But she supports Florida Forever, the state’s program to protect environmentally fragile land and natural resources, saying, “We need to keep Florida beautiful.” In Murphy, the program would have a much-needed supporter after being all but neglected the past few sessions.
Although voters shouldn’t base their decisions on endorsements alone, they should take special note of some of the backing Murphy has received. First, although Fasano, as of this writing, has not officially endorsed Murphy, he said he voted for her by absentee ballot. That speaks volumes about the confidence he has in her and his concern that Gunter would put the desires of the GOP leadership ahead of what’s best for the district and the state.
In addition, Murphy has been endorsed by Ann Hildebrand, like Fasano a Republican, and one of the county’s most dedicated public servants. Hildebrand served nearly 30 years on the county commission in a west Pasco district before retiring last year and has known Murphy for years. Her support is a loud testament to Murphy’s skills, community work and promise as a state lawmaker.
The Tribune endorses Amanda Murphy for state House District 36 in Tuesday’s special election.