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GOP chairman leans at center
Charge of favoritism may follow county GOP Chairman Bill Bunting, who backs Dan Tipton.
By DAVID DeCAMP, Times Staff Writer
Published December 13, 2007
New Port Richey Mayor Dan Tipton, left, is running for Clerk of Circuit Court in the GOP primary.
[Special to the Times]
[Times photo (2004)]
Bill Bunting, right, a member of the Committee to Elect Dan Tipton, acknowledged his preference for Tipton over fellow Republican Paula O'Neil, the deputy clerk.
Chairman Bill Bunting of the Pasco County Republican Party says he has not endorsed Dan Tipton to be the next clerk of court.
But he is a member of the Committee to Elect Dan Tipton.
When Bunting was pressed Wednesday on his role in Tipton's fundraising effort, he acknowledged his preference for Tipton over fellow Republican Paula O'Neil, the deputy clerk.
"When you're on a host committee, I guess I can see how it can be perceived that way," Bunting said.
Often party chairmen - among the most recognized pols in a community - stay neutral publicly. They avoid charges of favoritism when fellow members compete.
Bunting said he agreed to join the committee because Tipton has worked hard for Republican candidates, including Gov. Charlie Crist. Bunting's wife Ann, a party powerbroker, also joined the committee. Their first event is today's fundraiser at Spartan Manor in New Port Richey.
Tipton, who is New Port Richey's mayor, has been on the party's executive committee, too. He welcomed their support, and checked with the Buntings to make sure their name could be on the invitation to the fundraiser.
Bunting said O'Neil is a good candidate, and he will not donate money to either candidate until a nominee emerges against Democrat Bob Altman. Clerk of the Circuit Court Jed Pittman, a Republican, is retiring. Bunting said he does not plan to join O'Neil's committee, not that she has offered.
O'Neil wouldn't say whether Bunting's decision bothered her.
"My consultant told me in the beginning, we run our own plan. We're not going to worry about what the opponent is doing," O'Neil said.
Ed Collins, a former County Commissioner supporting O'Neil, said the Buntings should have acted more carefully, though he lauded their effort to get Republicans elected. "For them to do something like this, it really negates the hard work they do for the party," Collins said.