Although new to state politics, Bill Gunter looked like a seasoned politico Thursday at the Governor’s Club during his first Tallahassee fundraiser in the House District 36 race.
Held in the private club’s Capital Room on the third floor, the fundraiser saw a light stream of lobbyists walk in and hand Gunter envelopes filled with checks from clients. Many of them gave Gunter the envelopes while introducing themselves. A handful lingered, nibbling on a noon snack of cheese cubes, bruschetta, and pigs-in-a-blanket.
“We feel like he’s a strong candidate,” said Teye Reeves, who works for Florida Partners, a lobbying firm with clients that include the Florida Family Insurance Co. and the Florida Insurance Council. “From a personal and professional standpoint, he’s established himself as a leader in his community.”
Like most of those who attended, it was the first time Reeves had met Gunter, whose day job is pastor of Redeemer Community Church, a Presbyterian church in New Port Richey. He filed three weeks ago to replace Mike Fasano, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to be Pasco County Tax Collector.
In a crowded race with two other Republicans and a Democrat, some Tallahassee money is already betting on the pastor and former University of Florida defensive end. One reason why is who attends his church: Richard Corcoran, who is slated to be House Speaker in 2016.
Corcoran is friends with Gunter and has been instrumental in locking up early support for him. The fundraiser was hosted by House leadership, namely Corcoran, current House Speaker Will Weatherford, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, who is set to become speaker next year, and Rep. Jose Oliva, who is set to become speaker in 2018.
“He certainly got the support of leadership,” Reeves said.
How many attended is hard to say. Reporters were asked to leave the fundraiser minutes after it began by Frank Terraferma, director of House campaigns for the Republican Party of Florida.But how much the fundraiser brought in will become clear on Sept. 13, when the first campaign finance reports are due. Gunter faces off against Jeromy Harding and Jim Mathieu in the Sept. 17 Republican primary. The victor will face on Oct. 15 against Democrat Amanda Murphy.