The rumor is back: Sen. Andy Gardiner is droppinng out of the race for Florida Senate President in 2014-15 so that his friend, John Thrasher, can take on Jack Latvala. This talk has been around for a while, but something has the Republican Florida Senate world buzzing a new.
Another possibility: Gardiner could be replaced by Sen. Joe Negron and Thrasher would then succeed him after 2015. Or it could be the other way around.
"I'm not going anywhere,'' Gardiner told the Herald/Times later in the day. "I look forward to the discussion."
"Conversations have happened today, but there's no confirmation," said one source.
Said another: "Things are going crazy around here."
Gardiner's supporters are concerned that Latvala is doing a better job organizing and gaining support. Recently, Latvala was holding court at the Governor's Club making promises and wooing supporters. Gardiner was nowhere to be found.
Another thing hurting Gardiner: He's Senate President Mike Haridopolos' Republican leader. The Senate isn't looking like a functional body. And, as they say in another context in boxing: Punish the body and the head will fall.
The last time we wrote about this, Latvala was surging but Gardiner had the edge in fundraising. Then, earlier this month, the Saint PetersBlog reported that Latvala edged Gardiner in fundraising. This isn't just a race between two or three Republicans in Orlando, St. Petersburg and Jacksonville. The battle for the Senate presidency will play out across the state and under the radar of the presidential contest.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce and its business allies, concerned with the trial-laywer and union money raised by Latvala, wants to make sure its Capitol foes don't get an edge. The two sides will slug out in anywhere from six to nine state Senate seats across the state. Each side will fund candidates who, if elected, will vote either for Gardiner/Thrasher or Latvala.
"All I can say is that this will go past Election Day," one Republican said.