Former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher Wins Primary for Jim King’s District 8 Senate Seat

Sep 15, 2009

Above:  Senate District 8 Primary Winner John Thrasher (center) gets congratulations from Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Chair Mike Hightower (right). Also pictured is Stephen Heckel.  (Photo credit:  JON M. FLETCHER/The Times-Union)


Former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher has won the Florida Senate District 8 Repulican primary after receiving just over 39 percent of the vote in a four-way special election.  As of 9 p.m. tonight, September 15, 2009, Thrasher led, often by double digits, in each of the district’s five counties: Duval, Flagler, Nassau, St. Johns and Volusia.

The election was held to replace the late Senator Jim King.

News coverage of the victory from the Jacksonville Times-Union is reprinted below:


Thrasher Wins Senate 8 Race

By Brandon Larrabee; Story updated at 9:56 PM on Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2009

Former House Speaker John Thrasher is headed back to Tallahassee, storming past three opponents Tuesday in a special primary election to choose the successor for the late Sen. Jim King.

In late returns, Thrasher enjoyed a comfortable lead over businessman Dan Quiggle; former Duval County School Board member Stan Jordan, who served four terms in the Legislature; and former Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham.

As of 9 p.m., Thrasher led, often by double digits, in each of the district’s five counties: Duval, Flagler, Nassau, St. Johns and Volusia.

While Thrasher was claiming victory in downtown Jacksonville, Quiggle was in Ponte Vedra, trying to put the best possible face on defeat.

Quiggle said his campaign sent a message that people are fed up with government waste and career politicians would have to put up a heavy fight to stay in Tallahassee.

“We walked to over 60,000 doors. I was able to meet great families that want a representative that will fight for their interests, not special interests,” he said.

Turnout ranged from around 8 percent in Duval to 27 percent in Flagler in the special GOP primary, tantamount to election because the winner will face only little-known write-in candidates in the Oct. 6 general election.

The small pool of voters didn’t keep groups for and against Thrasher, one of the perceived front-runners, from pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into television ads, direct-mail pieces and an apparent surveillance operation outside the home of one of Thrasher’s opponents.

Also up for grabs during Tuesday’s special election were the vacant seats on the School Board and City Council.

King, a Jacksonville Republican who spent nearly a quarter-century in the Legislature, died in July at age 69 after a battle with cancer. The “lion of the Legislature” was known as a bridge-builder, but the campaign to follow him in office seemed focused more on burning bridges than constructing them.

Thrasher, who moved into District 8 to run for King’s seat, banked on his ability to get things done for Northeast Florida. Many expected him to get in line for a leadership position in the upper chamber shortly after his election.

Quiggle, a businessman and head of anti-tax group who also made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2000, ran on an anti-incumbency platform, bashing establishment politicians and hoping to capitalize on conservative anger at the Obama Administration reflected by Tea Party protests and raucous town hall meetings.

“The bottom line is, we will never change Tallahasseee if we keep sending the same career politicians,” he said.

Jordan touted his experience in education and military issues as the former chair of the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Graham stressed his work in local government as a perfect mixture of elected experience without the baggage of being a creature of Tallahassee.

The campaign had barely started when secretive “electioneering communications organizations,” some linked to trial lawyers, entered the fray with ads lampooning Thrasher’s insider ties and a multimillion-dollar refurbishing of the House chamber during his tenure as speaker.

Thrasher hit back, blasting the groups for refusing to disclose their donors. He suggested the efforts were tied to lawyers angered by an overhaul of the state’s civil justice system Thrasher helped push through the Legislature as speaker.

“I’m not going to whine about it, other than I think it’s a disservice to the public and the voters of this district,” Thrasher said.

The race took another bizarre turn shortly before the election, when Quiggle’s campaign alleged a Thrasher supporter videotaped the businessman’s home in an effort to find out who was meeting with Quiggle. The Thrasher campaign disowned the video.

The target of one independent effort – a racially tinged mailer warning of intimidation at the polls – was never clear. The chairman of the state Republican Party joined the candidates in denouncing the direct-mail piece, sent by a group supposedly run by a Florida State professor registered in Leon County as a Democrat.

King’s death accelerated the timeline for the campaign, which was supposed to lead to an election next year, when King would have been forced out of office by term limits. The winner of the seat will have to run again in November 2010 when King’s term would have run out.



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