In pep talks to parties, Weatherford and Thurston prepare for clashes ahead
TALLAHASSEE -- The day before he takes over the reins of the Florida House, incoming Speaker Will Weatherford told fellow Republican colleagues Monday to hold strong to what they believe is true.
His words of encouragement came after Republicans lost five seats in the house, the super-majority status that it enjoyed, and Weatherford’s successor as speaker in 2014, Rep. Chris Dorworth, who lost a shocking battle for reelection.
Weatherford congratulated the caucus for agreeing on Dorworth’s replacement, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, with little melodrama.
For a man often credited with being bipartisan, he challenged the Republicans to stick to their core principles and to be loyal to each other – all of which could make compromise with the 44 Democrats difficult.
He called the Republicans a “New Spirit of 76”.
“It will be a spirit of resolve, a spirit of freedom, and a spirit of courage,” he said. “You are part of a family. Tomorrow, the whole family will get together. But you are the nucleus.”
Minutes later, Weatherford’s counterpart, Perry Thurston, the incoming minority leader, told the 44 members of the Democratic caucus that they were “Soul of the Legislature.”
“We will continue to stand up for our unions, we will continue to stand up for every day men and women across
Thurston braced the caucus for the setbacks ahead.
“We are going to be the loyal opposition,” Thurston said. “Yes, our numbers have increased. Yes, we’re going to be more effective in the House of Representatives.
“We won a lot of debates, a lot of debates, where we wound up losing the vote,” Thurston said, citing their opposition to HB 1355 that limited early voting hours, among other changes. “That will continue to happen, not as much, but that will continue to happen.”
Thurston is expected to cede the speaker’s job to Weatherford in Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony, but with a resurgent Democratic Party, the Republicans will have to contend with a more organized opposition.
As Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, said Monday in introducing Weatherford, his “Mr. Nice Guy label” may be fleeting.