How powerful is J.D. Alexander? So powerful that lawmakers (well, OK, not Sen. Mike Fasano) fell all over themselves in response to questions about Alexander's proposal to spin off the University of South Florida Polytechnic from USF and become an independent university.
"Sen. Alexander is immensely well-regarded in the Senate," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, slated to become the next Florida Senate president. "So sure, if J.D. Alexander advances an idea, it's going to be considered seriously."
Alexander, who championed a proposal to build Polytechnic a $35 million new campus during the last legislative session, this week publicly floated his preference for the campus to separate. Meanwhile, a letter from 29 Polk County leaders supporting the idea arrived in the office of Ava Parker, chairwoman of the entity that oversee's Florida's 11 public universities.
And Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said this: "If Sen. Alexander is behind it, it’s going to have some legs. I think everybody would recognize that if the Senate appropriations chairman has something to say about just about any issue, people are going to listen. No question about it."
Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton, said this: "In order for Florida to really compete globally we need to have an excellent university system. That’s paramount. So you couple that with a statesman like Sen. Alexander, whose family dates back many years in Florida, his idea carries, with me, a lot of legitimacy."