Sen. John Thrasher admits to caring deeply about Florida State University and trying hard to improve the school over his many years as a lawmaker and lobbyist. But the 70-year-old is not saying whether he wants to become FSU's next president, though many of his friends seem to think he will apply and is a shoo-in for the job.
In fact, Thrasher says he has not sought advice from anyone about the job or what it would mean for his Senate career. The St. Augustine Republican's current term runs through November, and he is up for re-election.
Thrasher is aware of and slightly annoyed by the buzz surrounding the rumors that he is the front-runner to replace outgoing FSU President Eric Barron. He blames it on friends in Tallahassee who know his affinity for FSU, but says he is not behind the not-so-quiet campaign.
"I can't control what they're doing," Thrasher said today. "I can control what I'm doing." He says his focus is the legislative session, which began this week, and continuing to work to get Gov. Rick Scott re-elected as his campaign chairman.
He denied one of the latest rumors, that he has talked to friends in the governor's office, including Chief of Staff Adam Hollingsworth, about the FSU job. "I've talked to them a lot about other things, but that is not something I'm talking about," Thrasher said.
He also dismissed a rumor that he has sought advice from the Senate's general counsel about whether ethics rules would allow him to serve as a state university president and in the Senate simultaneously or preclude him from voting on FSU related matters while he pursues the job. A Senate spokeswoman said attorney-client privilege would protect that conversation from public disclosure anyway, if it were to occur.
Meanwhile, the governor's office was as evasive as ever when asked about the rumors of its role in fueling the Thrasher rumors. Below are the relevant parts of the emails we traded with a Scott spokesman this afternoon.
Times/Herald wrote: I'm working on a blog about the FSU presidential search and wanted to check to see if Gov. Scott or anyone on his staff has had conversations with anyone at FSU about the looming presidential search? Has the governor or anyone on his staff talked to any potential candidates to replace Eric Barron? Has the governor or his staff decided to support or oppose any potential candidates at this time?
Scott spokesman John Tupps responded: Here's a statement for your story that you can attribute to me: "Governor Scott supports a search committee process that will select a new president at FSU who will be committed to providing Florida students with an affordable, high-quality education. The Governor believes that Eric Barron did a great job as president of FSU, and the next president will have big shoes to fill."
T/H: This doesn't answer any of my questions.
Tupps: You've got my statement. Please include it in your story.
T/H: With all due respect, Are you not planning to send me answers to my questions?
Tupps: That would be inaccurate. Please incorporate my statement into your story.
T/H: Here is what I asked: "I wanted to check to see if Gov. Scott or anyone on his staff has had conversations with anyone at FSU about the looming presidential search? Has the governor or anyone on his staff talked to any potential candidates to replace Eric Barron? Has the governor or his staff decided to support or oppose any potential candidates at this time?" Which of these questions are answered in the statement you sent me?
Tupps didn't respond after that, at least as of the time of this blog being posted.