Autocratic Sen. Alexander casts big shadow

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State Sen. JD Alexander wields a lot of power.

He used his political position to remake the Florida Citrus Commission this year, a move that cost the executive director his job.

He voted his cousin off the board of a family company when the man objected to one of Alexander’s business proposals.

Now, in his last year as a state senator, he has his sights on the University of South Florida.

USF opposed Alexander’s plan to turn USF Polytechnic into an independent university, and a state board gave USF a win when it delayed the separation. Since then, Alexander has berated USF’s leaders, demanding they be investigated and advocating that another university take over the Poly campus in Polk County.

So what’s next?

Can Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican who’s in charge of the Senate Budget Committee, make USF feel the pain when lawmakers convene in Tallahassee next month?

“I certainly believe there’s a perceived threat there; if it’s real, I don’t know,” said Lakeland certified public accountant David Touchton, who led an effort to delay consideration of Poly’s independence.

Still, it won’t be easy to push around a major state university with 40,000 students, donors who have given millions of dollars and supporters who are “ripping mad” at Alexander, to use the words of former Lakeland Mayor Frank O’Reilly.

“This is all bullying and ego,” O’Reilly said.


Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.