NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano said he tried to stay neutral in what has quickly become a nasty race to replace him in the state Legislature.
But Fasano said he got dragged in by a mysterious electioneering committee that used his name in an attack mailer against Democrat Amanda Murphy. Murphy faces Republican Bill Gunter in the Oct. 15 special election for west Pasco’s 36th House District.
The glossy mailer, paid for by Citizens for Fairness, accuses Murphy of being a Tallahassee insider who’s taking money from “BIG INSURANCE & BIG UTILITY companies.” It says those are the same companies Fasano fought against.
“It implies that I’m unhappy with Amanda,” Fasano said. “It isn’t true. She’s very much for repealing the nuclear cost recovery fee. Using my name like that gives the wrong impression to voters that she’s done something wrong.”
Murphy’s fundraising report shows no contributions from insurance companies or utilities, or their PACs, or anyone employed in either industry.
“It’s so far from true, it’s ridiculous,” Murphy said.
Gunter’s fundraising report shows he has accepted thousands of dollars from TECO, Verizon, Florida Cable Telecommunications, Humana, Pharmabill, Capital Insurance Agency and others.
“Bill has a responsibility to call out this group and tell them to knock it off,” Fasano said.
Gunter said he had nothing to do with the ad or the committee.
“I don’t know who they are and I have no connection to it whatsoever,” he said. “I feel like we are running a positive campaign. The focus of this race is on the constituents and their issues.”
This was one of several attack mailers paid for by Citizens for Fairness. Others accuse Murphy of owning multiple vacation homes and being an out-of-touch wealthy executive for a Wall Street financial company.
“She vacations around the globe, and she makes money off working Floridians investments.”
Murphy is a vice president at Raymond James Financial, which is headquartered in St. Petersburg. Her financial disclosure form listed a timeshare in Cocoa Beach worth $12,900 and half of a time share in Cabo San Lucas valued at $7,362.
The electioneering committee lists Carmela Falcone of Melbourne as chairwoman. A message left at the number listed was not returned. Falcone is chairwoman of nine electioneering committees registered with the state Division of Elections.
Earlier this year, her committee, Citizen Alliance for a Strong Economy, spent more than $40,000 on fliers praising a Miami Democratic state representative who opposed public financing to renovate the Miami Dolphins’ stadium.
In 2012, Falcone’s Conservatives United committee raised and spent more than $250,000, including $55,000 from an Orlando Realtors PAC.
Early voting for the race begins Saturday. Six percent of voters have already returned absentee ballots.