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Thrasher Expects to Hit Million Dollar Goal Before Election

Sen. John Thrasher said Wednesday that he expects to reach the $1 million fund-raising goal he set in advance of this weekend’s election of a new Florida Republican Party chairman – and that he has the votes to win that job.

Thrasher said he has received 80 public endorsements from party leaders – twice as many as either of the two other candidates vying to succeed outgoing Chairman Jim Greer. Support from about 120 Republican Executive Committee members is likely needed to win the election, scheduled for Saturday in Orlando.

“I think it’s enough for us to be successful,” Thrasher said. “If you win you win.”

Thrasher said he hasn’t spoken or seen Greer since he announced last month that he was formally stepping down as chairman with a year left in his term. Greer had been under intense pressure from Republican fund-raisers angered by his free-spending practices, which they said had resulted in budget deficits.

Criticism of Greer has intensified over the past month amid revelations that executive director Delmar Johnson was paid at least $408,000 while doing double-duty as the GOP’s top fund-raiser in payments structured so that they would not be revealed to party leaders.

Thrasher said his fund-raising efforts have helped restore the party books.

“The assessment is that we’re not in as bad a shape as people have made it out,” Thrasher said. “There are some holes. But nothing that can’t be fixed by some aggressive leadership and people willing to work hard.”

Thrasher also said he supported what Saturday is likely to be renewed calls from Republican leaders for an independent audit of spending since 2007 when Greer took control of the party.

“We’re going to look into it and see what’s there, and I’m going to make recommendations to the board,” Thrasher said.

Broward County State Committeewoman Sharon Day and Oseceola County State Committeeman Mark Cross are challenging Thrasher for the chair’s post – with the fight divided largely between elected officials backing the veteran lawmaker and party regulars lining up behind Day and Cross.

Thrasher said he has spoken with Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, about whether he would stay on as chairman of the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee if he also is tapped to head the state Republican Party. Thrasher said more discussions will take place after Saturday, but the St. Augustine Republican declined to say whether he thought it was appropriate to continue as head of a committee that sets elections standards.

The panel Wednesday unanimously approved Thrasher-sponsored legislation (SB 900) which now includes a package of mostly non-controversial reforms sought by the Division of Elections. The legislation revamps rules governing overseas voting, absentee balloting and canvassing commission requirements.

But Thrasher said the legislation could eventually prove the platform for efforts he said are needed to establish controls on now-unregulated 527 political committees and re-establish party leadership funds, prohibited since 1993 in Florida.

Thrasher said political committees needed more real-time reporting of contributions; while leadership funds also could provide more transparency on contributions and spending by top House and Senate members.

“I still have pretty strong opinions about it,” Thrasher said.

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