Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thrasher Will Seek to Chair Florida GOP; as Embattled Jim Greer Plans to Resign the Position, Legislators Are Already Supporting the Senator's Bid

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Thrasher Will Seek to Chair Florida GOP; as Embattled Jim Greer Plans to Resign the Position, Legislators Are Already Supporting the Senator's Bid

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT and BRANDON LARRABEE

State Sen. John Thrasher, who just months ago defeated a group of hardline conservatives in a nasty campaign to return to the Legislature, said he's confident he can repair Florida's beleaguered Republican Party as its next chairman.

The prospect of Thrasher becoming the state's Republican figurehead arose Tuesday as embattled Chairman Jim Greer announced he was resigning, effective Feb. 20.

Although Thrasher's chairmanship is subject to a statewide vote of the party's Executive Committee, already fellow legislators and party officials have voiced support of Thrasher taking over. Some say it would provide Northeast Florida with a louder voice on statewide policy decisions, as well.

"It's time to bring the party back to the focus. That's to ensure strong Republican principles and strong Republican leadership are in Florida," Thrasher said during an interview at his office in Arlington. "If I'm going to do this job, I'm going to look forward."

Thrasher said he would not give up his Senate seat to be party chairman. He also said he was interested in serving only for the year-long remainder of Greer's term.

Thrasher said researchers with the Republican Party are reviewing the bylaws to be sure of the finer points of him holding both jobs. There is also a question about whether he can raise campaign funds while the Legislature is in session.

Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson of Tallahassee was critical of how much attention the chairmanship would rob from Thrasher's duties in the Senate.

"In a body that has long been known and respected for its collegiality, its decorum, and most of all, its bipartisan independence, a decision to simultaneously remain in this Senate while leading the Republican Party of Florida threatens its very foundation," Lawson said in a statement released by his office. "You cannot serve two masters."

Asked about that criticism, Thrasher said, "Maybe that's a sign that [the Democrats] are worried that we're going to do a good job."

Thrasher picked up several key GOP endorsements in the wake of Greer's resignation. …

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