Scott asks Thrasher to remain as chairman; the senator says 'no'
For weeks, Gov.-elect Rick Scott has been urging state Sen. John Thrasher of Jacksonville to remain as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, serving as Scott's crucial liasion to the party rank-and-file and the Tallahassee establishment. Today, Thrasher today finally formally told him "no."
"I will leave on Jan. 15,'' Thrasher said. "We've had conversations with our staff and the governor's for several weeks." Despite entreaties from the new governor Thrasher told him: "I made it very clear I won't stay. That's what I said when I took the job."
Thrasher was ushered in as a temporary chairman in February after former RPOF chair Jim Greer was forced to resign. Greer has since been indicted by a statewide grand jury on charges that he stole $125,000 from the party through the use of a shell company. But when Scott won the primary against Attorney General Bill McCollum, running against the party establishment and promising no more politics as usual, Thrasher arrived at Scott's Fort Lauderdale headquarters and was the first to offer an olive branch.
When Scott won, he reached out to Thrasher to remain on the job as a handful of officials from county executive committees started skirmishing for the title. Among them is Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, an early Scott supporter, Pinellas County State Committeeman Tony DiMatteo, Jefferson County State Committeeman Dave Bitner, Palm Beach County chairman Sid Dinerstein, and Deborah Cox-Roush, vice chairman of the state party and chairman of the Hillsborough Republican Party.
Now Scott is expected to let the party's rank and file choose Thrasher's successor without his influence at the party's annual meeting on Jan. 15. Thrasher was the favorite of the Tallahassee lobbying corps and several close advisors to Scott who are urging Scott to hand-pick the party chairman like most Democrat and Republican governors have done in the recent past. The party's allegiance to the governor can serve him well in a re-election campaign and in assuring party contributors they have his ear.
The next party chair will also be influential when Florida hosts the Republican National Convention in 2012 and as the Legislature goes through its once-in-a-decade redrawing of state and federal political boundaries during redistricting.