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Behind the Senate budget, a deal on Senate president

The meetings have been constant throughout the day in the closed-door meeting room in the back of the Senate chamber known as the bubble.

The deal: Sen. Andy Gardiner of Winter Park becomes Senate president in 2014, followed by Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater in 2016, both with the assistance of the chamber's returning Democrats. They hope to return next year with at as many as three more Democrats, which are now at 12. Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville remains as the designated incoming Senate president next year.

As senators debated the $70 million budget, Gardiner or Latvala met individually with nearly all the returning Republicans in the Senate as well as candidates for Senate.

Rep. Jim Frishe, a candidate for Senate, has signed pledge cards for Gardiner and Latvala to become Senate president --in that order -- and believes that Reps. Denise Grimsley and John Legg, who are also Senate candidates have done the same.

The apparent odd man out: Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine, the Senate Rules chairman who fueled the three-day drama when he lost confidence in Gardiner and urged his supporters to switch their votes to him. Thrasher has been off the floor much of the day.

"It's over," said one senator moments ago. "Andy's got the votes,'' said another.

"Today is Andy's day,'' said Latvala, his one-time rival who has spent the last three days in vigorous negotiations working out the agreement. 

He and Gardiner met for breakfast at a Tallahassee Panera's and by the end of the day the pair appeared on stage at a concert in honor of retiring Sen. Dennis Jones by The Embers, a beach music band. It was a rare appearance at a social event for the conservative Gardiner. It was exactly the kind of commaraderie-engendering event that Latvala laments there isn't enough of in the current Senate.