Monday, June 25, 2018
Politics

Thrasher's quest for FSU president is pivotal for Senate

Now that state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, has submitted his resume and letter of interest for the FSU presidency, the question for a lot of Tallahassee folks is not if the influential state senator will get the job but when.

The answer may have big implications for control of the Senate in 2016 and beyond.

Thrasher is one of 20 senators up for re-election this fall. The weeklong qualifying period for legislative candidates (June 16-20) starts in a little more than two weeks. It's doubtful that FSU will have decided on Eric Barron's replacement by then, partly because Thrasher's candidacy is likely to stir more controversy, which could slow the trustees' decision-making process.

If Thrasher is the only Republican who files qualifying papers in strongly Republican Senate District 6 and he then gets the FSU job, he will have to resign from the Senate. That would create a vacancy in nomination under state election laws, and the Republican Party would get to choose a new nominee for the Senate seat.

Thrasher's district includes Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties and part of Volusia. By law, the state party chairman notifies the county chairmen, who then call meetings of the county executive committee to choose a replacement candidate.

Rep. Ronald "Doc" Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, is interested in the seat, the News Service of Florida reports. Thrasher's Senate district also takes in much of the House district of freshman Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton.

Thrasher's replacement could play a decisive role in the battle for control of the Senate for the 2016-18 cycle, when Sens. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Joe Negron of Stuart hope to succeed Sen. Andy Gardiner, the Orlando Republican who will become Senate president in November. Gardiner surely would have a say in the selection of the new Senate candidate.

Ties to a professor

Checking out the cover letter and resume that Thrasher, 70, submitted by computer last week in applying to become the next FSU president, the Buzz discovered something interesting through the "properties" tab: The PDFs were created on computers registered to Stephen MacNamara, the FSU professor and associate vice president who also served as chief of staff to Gov. Rick Scott and to Thrasher when he served as Florida House speaker.

Thrasher and MacNamara tell the Buzz they exchanged emails about the resume and cover letter the way any friend would help a friend who asked for it. They say MacNamara has taken no other role in assisting Thrasher as he prepares for a June 11 interview.

MacNamara and Thrasher met years ago when MacNamara was a professor for one of Thrasher's daughters, Thrasher said. MacNamara is a tenured communications professor at FSU. Thrasher said MacNamara is one of many people, some of whom also have ties to FSU, who helped him update his resume and cover letter for the first time in about 30 years.

"His expertise is in communications, and certainly I wanted to make sure that how I was addressing the resume was done in a way that was positive and formatted in a modern way," Thrasher says.

MacNamara took several leaves of absence from FSU over the years to accept political positions. In addition to working for Thrasher, he was chief of staff for Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Gov. Scott. He resigned from his position in the governor's office in 2012 amid news reports outlining how he steered no-bid contracts to friends and interfered in staffing decisions throughout state government.

MacNamara says he edited Thrasher's resume and cover letter and later suggested he submit them in PDF form instead of Microsoft Word. Thrasher agreed and asked MacNamara to convert the documents for him, which is how MacNamara's named ended up in the "author" field of both PDFs.

MacNamara said he has not spoken to any members of the search committee on Thrasher's behalf and has no plans to.

In fact, MacNamara says he did not agree with the committee's decision to make Thrasher a sole candidate and that he believed the search consultant should work harder to find other good candidates.

"I don't like the process as it's gone," he said. "I don't know why they can't assemble a strong list of candidates."

Seasoned views

Plenty of candidates for office tout their experience, but few have more overall experience than today's guest on Political Connections on Bay News 9. Sarasota resident Joe Newman is running as a write-in candidate against U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. Newman is 101 years old. Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Adam C. Smith contributed to this week's Buzz.

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