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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate R's make Haridop presidency official



Senate Republicans on Tuesday, fresh from a victory in passing the bill promoting commuter rail in South and Central Florida, tapped Indialantic lawmaker Mike Haridopolos to succeed Sen. Jeff Atwater as the chamber's leader.
Haridopolos, a conservative Republican who has served in the Legislature since 2000, is slated to take over as Senate President in November 2010 following the general election. Republican leaders made his designation official during a well-attended ceremony in the Senate chamber, where lobbyists looked on from the gallery above and elected officials including Gov. Charlie Crist watched from the Senate floor.

"From the beginning... your committment to the success of all those around you made it clear you were destined for leadership," Atwater said, during a ceremony in the Senate chamber. "We are calling you to lead. We believe in Mike Haridopolos. And we believe in the future of Florida."

Haridopolos has served in the Legislature since 2000, when he was elected to the House of Representatives. He was elected to the Florida Senate in March 2003.

"The senators in this room have helped me grow and challenge myself, and I thank you," Haridopolos said. "And our goal is to make the world a better place for our children than it was for us. ...We are not just going to be the party of 'no.' We are going to be the party of better opportunities."

As a lawmaker, he quickly set a conservative path.

Shortly after being elected to the House, Haridopolos co-founded the Freedom Caucus, an anti-tax group that helped defeat a $2 charge on vehicle tags that would have helped raise TriRail funding.

TriRail funding was one of the issues being debated during this week's special session on commuter rail. Haridopolos and other Republicans said the state must show the federal government a "committment" to commuter rail by providing an additional $13 million to $15 million annually for TriRail operations. Most of the additional money would come from gas tax collections, under the bill sent to the governor Tuesday.

Haridopolos, 39, also is working with fellow Central Florida Republican Rep. Dean Cannon on legislation that would open up waters off Florida to oil drilling.

He got his bachelor's degree from Stetson University in 1992 and earned a master's degree from the University of Arkansas. He teaches political science at the University of Florida. He is married to Dr. Stephanie Bressan of Ft. Lauderdale and has three children: Alexis, Hayden, Reagan.

His family joined him for Tuesday's ceremony, with Dr. Bressan addressing the group to congratulate "my wonderful husband."

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, noted that Haridopolos - the son of an undercover FBI agent -- is the first Senate president who is a teacher, the husband of a doctor, and the father of a child not yet old enough for kindergarten.

"Mike Haridopolos sees Florida through the faces of his children," he said.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:09pm]


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