During former Gov. Charlie Crist's drift from Republican to independent to Democrat, there's been at least one GOP friend who has stuck by his side: Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a former longtime lawmaker.
On Thursday, after months of absence and (relative) silence, Fasano returned to the capital and lashed out at an ad backing the re-election campaign of Republican Gov. Rick Scott --- the man who appointed Fasano to his current position and is now facing Crist in the November election.
"This is as low as you can get, Rick Scott, with the type of ad and the type of lies that you're now putting out on the TV to every home in the state of Florida," Fasano said.
Later, Fasano added: "Enough of this type of campaigning, and enough of Rick Scott."
The ad in question attempted to revive questions about Crist's ties to South Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein, who was sent to prison for a massive Ponzi scheme. It features a "victim" of Rothstein's scam, later identified by the Miami Herald as Dean Kretschmar --- who recovered most of his losses and still lives in an upscale house in Fort Lauderdale. Crist has never been linked to Rothstein's crimes.
Fighting with Fasano, who registered to vote on his 18th birthday so he could support Ronald Reagan, is nothing new for GOP leaders. Fasano charted a maverick course in the Legislature, including sponsoring a failed measure to expand Medicaid in 2013.
And he never abandoned Crist.
Republicans appeared to come up with a plan last year to get Fasano out of their hair: have Scott send him back to Pasco County, away from the Tallahassee spotlight. But Fasano has made no secret in his social media posts of his continued disdain for the incumbent.
"If you don't know that I support Charlie Crist, you don't read my tweets," he said Thursday.
During Thursday's press conference --- organized by the Crist campaign --- Fasano was spouting the kind of populist fire that made him a favorite quote during his legislative days.
"I'm a lifelong Republican and I support Republicans throughout the state," he said. "But I cannot support a gentleman, in my opinion, who has left behind the little guy and gal --- the ratepayers, the premium payers, those who are struggling each and every day."
To counter Fasano --- who is still immensely popular in Pasco County --- the Scott campaign issued a statement from another Pasco Republican: House Speaker Will Weatherford. Without referring to the Rothstein charges, Weatherford argued that Crist's metamorphosis over the years was still a deception.
"It’s sad to see Mike Fasano has fallen so far as to endorse a serial swindler with no principles except personal ambition," Weatherford said.
Fasano's response came via Twitter: "Sorry to see that [Weatherford] continues to follow the inside the Tallahassee beltway script. #sayfie #thelittleguyandgal"