Former Speaker Thrasher Returning to Tallahassee
Almost a decade after serving as House Speaker, John Thrasher is on the verge of returning to the Capitol as a senator.
Thrasher coasted to victory Tuesday in a four-man Republican primary to fill the District 8 Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville. Thrasher collected close to 40 percent of the vote in what turned out to be a hard-hitting, low-turnout race, easily topping second-place finisher Dan Quiggle, a Ponte Vedra Beach businessman.
Thrasher now faces three write-in opponents in the Oct. 6 general election.
“It worked out,” Thrasher said. “I think people began seeing through the attacks and I think it was a real rebuke to the kind of campaigning that was used against me.”
A former lobbyist with the capital’s Southern Strategies firm, Thrasher was endorsed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who cut television ads for him, and Jacksonville-area congressman Ander Crenshaw.
But Thrasher also was the target of tough television advertising by political organizations allied with trial lawyers looking to keep the former general counsel for the Florida Medical Association from making a return trip to the Capitol.
Even in defeat, the trial bar was defiant.
“The Florida Justice Association was proud to stand on the side of consumers in this election against the largest corporate special interests and their lobbyists,” said Michael Haggard, president of the Florida Justice Association. “Our actions in this election show that the FJA will never back down whenever Florida's civil justice system is threatened.”
Trailing in the Republican field were former Rep. Stan Jordan and Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham.
In the race’s homestretch, the campaign became a contest chiefly between Thrasher and Quiggle, whose politics leaned further right. Quiggle courted the GOP’s tea party faction, attacking big government, wasteful spending and ridiculing Thrasher as a party insider.
But it wasn’t enough to derail Thrasher, whose fund-raising topped $400,000 – more than double that of second-place Quiggle.
As speaker from 1998-2000, Thrasher helped craft a wide range of civil justice limits, helping corporations gain new legal protections against personal injury lawsuits stemming from negligence and product liability.
King and former Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, who retired this summer, had been staunch defenders of trial lawyer interests in the Senate. Thrasher now prepares to replace King while Pruitt has been replaced by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who is also seen as likely to vote against the trial bar side.
The free spending by Stop Tax Waste, Inc., and Conservative Citizens for Justice, two of the stealthy, 527 organizations involved in the race, also has helped fuel calls by legislators from both parties to enact new laws requiring such committees to disclose their contributors.
Such standards were ruled unconstitutional earlier this year by a federal judge, leaving these groups virtually unregulated in Florida.