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Saunders schedules vote for 2012 Democratic House leader

Florida House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders on Friday announced that the House Democratic Caucus will meet at 8:45 a.m. on March 8 for the purpose of designating the Democratic nominee for Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives for the 2012-14 term.

The race pits Rep. Perry Thurston from Plantation against Joseph Gibbons from Hallandale.

Thurston for months has been calling on Saunders to schedule an election before session begins to end any divisiveness over the issue.

"When you have less than 40 members the last thing you need is to not be unified," said Thurston, who lost to Saunders by a tiny margin in that race.  "Once we have the election everybody will come together and we'll all be on the same page."

Gibbons said he would have preferred to wait.

"I wish we would have waited a little longer, the second or third week of session, so the freshmen would have an opportunity to see us on the floor," Gibbons said.

He is pressuring Thurston to bow out of the race, saying he had his chance to lead the caucus in the last election and lose.

"You shouldn't have two African-Americans running against each other," Gibbons said.