Long considered to be the candidate to beat, state Sen. John Thrasher was short on specifics and easily rattled during a series of interviews Monday for the presidency of Florida State University.
As the first of four finalists to be invited on campus for daylong interviews, Thrasher, 70, had several hours to sell his vision for FSU to students, staff and faculty. But he spent much of that time dodging questions about his political beliefs and promising the FSU community his devotion, but only in vague terms.
"If I get to this job, I am going to be an advocate for Florida State University for every single constituency whether it be faculty, students or whoever," he said.
Thrasher is expected to win re-election to his northeast Florida state Senate seat. When asked whether he would still commit to increasing faculty salaries, decreasing student debt and helping FSU improve its national standing if he did not become president and remained in the Legislature, he demurred.
As a state senator, he said, he is responsible only to the people who elected him. "I represent them, and I'll follow their wishes," Thrasher said.
That was the overall theme of his interview. On one hand, Thrasher sees his political experience and legislative ties as an asset to FSU as it aims to raise $500 million and bolster its state support. At the same time, Thrasher is asking those who are leery of his conservative political record to trust that he will leave that all behind if he gets the job.