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Unless FSU Calls, Expect John Thrasher to Stay in the Senate

March 19, 2014 - 7:00pm

Don Gaetz calls his close ally John Thrasher the lion of the Senate and the longtime First Coast politician looks ready to roar again come November.

Thrashers name has gotten some buzz as the next president of Florida State University and, with no chance to become Senate president, it would be a nice feather in his cap to end his career. But Thrasher is now 70, not exactly an age where politicians turn their attention to becoming university presidents.

To be sure, hes showing no signs of slowing down and remains one of the sharpest legislators in the Senate. The senator is playing down talk that hell be the next president of FSU and theres no reason not to believe him. But Thrasher is closer to Gaetz than he is to Andy Gardiner who will take over as president come November. Having teamed with Gaetz to remove Gardiner from the post, Thrasher wont be as close to the leadership as hes been before. But he remains one of the savviest players in the Senate and will remain prominent even when the gavels passed.

Before serving in the Senate, Thrasher rose up the ladder in Clay County, serving on the school board and eventually moving to the Florida House back in 1992. Thrasher served as speaker during his last term in the House as Jeb Bush started his first term as governor.

Thrasher made a political comeback in 2009, winning the Florida Senate seat opened when Jim King died. Since then, Thrasher has been a leading figure in Tallahassee, chairing the Republican Party of Florida after Jim Greer resigned in disgrace and helping Mitt Romneys presidential campaign. Despite shifting his base from Clay County to St. Johns County, Thrashers had no problem routing Democrats at the polls. He utterly defeated well-known Jacksonville news anchor Deborah Gianoulis, beating her by 20 percent in 2010. Despite Barack Obamas and Bill Nelsons coattails, Thrasher bested Kathleen Trued by almost 17.5 percent in 2012.

So far, it looks like Thrasher wont have to break much of a sweat this time out. Even with conservative Clay County out of the mix, Thrasher has a solid Republican district covering all of Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties and parts of Volusia County. No Democrat has yet jumped in against Thrasher though Greg Feldman is running against him with no party affiliation. Thrashers been busy, already raising more than $220,800 and spending more than $82,500 by the end of February.

Still, Thrasher should expect a Democratic opponent. Both Gianoulis and Trued filed to run in June. Of course neither of them, despite some impressive credentials, came close to toppling Thrasher.

Unless he takes the FSU presidency or some other high post, Thrasher is a heavy favorite to head back to the Senate in November. This lion is set to keep roaring in the Senate for sometime to come.

Tallahassee based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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