Religious Right Leaders Split on State Senate Endorsements
Heading toward next week’s special election, a Jacksonville-area Senate race now features a religious schism along with other warring special interests.
Florida Right to Life’s Political Action Committee on Thursday endorsed former House Speaker John Thrasher in the four-way Republican primary to replace late Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville.
Within a few hours, Orlando activist John Stemberger, head of the Florida Family Policy Council, threw his support to Thrasher rival Dan Quiggle. Stemberger said he weighed into the race after reading a News Service of Florida account of Thrasher accepting contributions from pari-mutuel companies in Jacksonville.
Quiggle also helped raise money for Stemberger’s ballot effort last year that successfully included a ban on same-sex marriage in the Florida constitution. Stemberger called him the “clear choice for conservative, pro-family Republicans.”
By contrast, Right to Life chairman Joe Gruters said that Thrasher deserved the group’s nod for supporting, “the rights of unborn children, the elderly and the infirm.”
Thrasher and Quiggle are the leading contenders for the GOP nomination in a race that also features former Rep. Stan Jordan and Jacksonville City Council member Art Graham.
Thrasher, a former Florida Medical Association lobbyist, has been trashed in TV ads by trial lawyer allies, while Quiggle has been targeted by a 527 organization believed to be tied to medical groups.
The latest scuffle between the two stemmed from a video taken outside Quiggle’s home purportedly showing the conclusion of a meeting between the Ponte Vedra Beach businessman and a couple of trial lawyers. Quiggle’s wife, Luanne, put out a statement Thursday condemning what she said was the Thrasher campaign’s involvement.