Excellent comments Eric, thanks for the post. This is of interest to just about "all" gas Commander owners, because most of us with the small block Chevy, Lincoln, and Ford motors all have essentially the same Carter AFB design, and the same crappy choke assembly.
With the Carters, it seems that everyone, regardless of mechanical or electric pumps, still has to pump the throttles to start engines without a choke. For me, the issue is knowing how much raw fuel to put into the motor to cause it to light off, as not enough won't give a rich enough charge, and too much can flood out the motor.
I added the comments about the elec fuel pump, because I really don't see them helping or hurting the situation much.
Even if the fuel bowl is not totally filled, you can still pump and prime the motor by pumping the throttles back and forth and start it. Once the motor starts for even a split second or two, the bowl is "instantly" filled with whatever thimball full it needs. At that point (first start on a cold week-end morning) the motor may stumble and stop, but I normally catch them by pumping a bit more gas one time, and at that point the fuel bowl is full and all is well.
There are some ignition mods to be used for hotter startup spark, but I think it's predominantily a fuel mix issue. Given the right mix, the engine should roar to life. The tough part is getting the right start-up mix without a choke.
My bet is, mechanical pump or electric, if the guy swaps over to a new carb with electric chokes, the motors will roar to life when he touches the starter. For me, the trick appears to be getting the same general mix by pumping raw gas into the intake manifold, and trying to start without a choke. I really don't have a problem starting my motors, because I basically pump the living daylights out of the throttles before hitting the gas. If the boat has been sitting for two weeks, I pump probably 15 to 20 time, hit the ignition, and they fire up.
More comments will be appreciated!