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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The most conservative Florida Senate in 40 years



Unity-rally For all the drama surrounding Florida's statewide campaigns, it's easy to overlook a major political development in Florida that's already a done deal: the sharp rightward shift of the Florida Senate.

Ever since Republicans came to dominate Tallahassee, the GOP-led Senate has been a moderating force on the more partisan and conservative Florida House. That practice appears sure to end as incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos takes the helm.

The 40-year-old Merritt Island conservative has already replaced a dozen high-level Senate committee staffers, and has made it clear he's done with the Senate's image as a check on the conservative activism that is often associated with the state House. Where the Senate used to be known as where bold conservative ideas would die, Haridopolos likes to say, it's about to be a place where they thrive.

"The Senate president and the speaker of the House not only like each other, but are hard right-wing conservatives and that's a very good sign," incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon said at a recent rally.

There may be no stronger sign of the changing climate than John Thrasher, the state GOP chairman and former state House Speaker, winning the Jacksonville area Senate seat of the late Jim King, a moderate Republican who counted among his best friends Rod Smith, who is now Alex Sink's running mate.

"The most conservative Florida Senate in at least 40 years,'' predicts Thrasher.

[Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 5:29pm]


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