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GOP taps next House speaker

House Republicans formally named Rep. John Thrasher their next speaker Wednesday, exactly one year after the GOP took control of the Florida House for the first time in more than a century.

Thrasher, an Orange Park attorney, will become speaker for two years after the 1998 elections unless Democrats pull off a surprising upset and regain the majority they lost last year. Republicans now hold a 65 to 55 lead.

Thrasher pledged to keep the House on the same track established by Speaker Daniel Webster, R-Orlando.

"The people in this state believe in what Republicans have committed to do," Thrasher said. He called education, public safety, economic development preventing tax increases the GOP's top priorities.

Thrasher, 53, earned his law degree from Florida State University in 1972 after a four-year stint in the Army, which included service in Vietnam.

His position as general counsel of the Florida Medical Association two years ago led to Thrasher being admonished by former House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace _ Webster's Democratic predecessor _ for appearing on behalf of the medical group before a state Board of Medicine panel.