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Rep. Fasano is possible replacement for late Pasco tax collector

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has emerged as a possible replacement for Mike Olson, the long-time Pasco County tax collector who died last week.

Olson's death after more than three decades in office requires Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a successor through the 2014 general election. Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, has had conversations with several Pasco legislators, and with Fasano himself.

"I have spoken with Adam Hollingsworth and I have told him I'm interested," Fasano said. House Speaker Will Weatherford, Sen. Wilton Simpson and Rep. Richard Corcoran also have weighed in with Scott or his people on the prospects of a Fasano appointment. Hollingsworth could not immediately be reached Friday.

Fasano is a very popular local political figure, but at first glance seems an unlikely choice because he's no fan of Scott. He's a very popular local political figure, but he has been outspoken in his criticism of Scott on a range of issues, once observing that any other politician with Scott's weak poll numbers would not consider running for a second term.

In a February Times/Herald story, Fasano described Scott as "hanging by a thread" politically. Viewed another way, however, appointing Fasano would allow Scott to rid the Capitol of one of his toughest critics. 

Fasano also has made clear to Scott aides that he's strongly considering running for the post, which means if Scott were to appoint someone else, that person would have their hands full with Fasano as an opponent. Olson was the only county-wide elected Democrat in Pasco County.

Fasano, 55, returned to the House last year after a decade in the Senate and eight years before that in the House. He has a reputation for being highly attentive to his constituents' needs, and the job of tax collector is chiefly a customer-service job.

By law, Fasano would have to resign from the House to become tax collector. If he were appointed, Scott would have to then call a special election for Fasano's District 36 House seat.

In his legislative office Friday, Fasano was reading constituents' emails -- much of it, as always, about property insurance. He said he felt as though he would be letting people down if he left the Legislature. "I just don't want to disappoint them," he said.

-- Steve Bousquet