Florida Republican icon Tom Slade died today in an Orange Park Hospital after suffering heart failure earlier in the week. He was 78.
Slade was a former Florida state Senator, epresentative and lobbyist, and best known as a highly respected leader of the Republican Party of Florida, serving three consecutive terms from 1993-1999.
Here is a compilation of remembrances from state political leaders to mark Slade’s passing.
Governor Rick Scott:
“Ann and I join Florida families on the First Coast and around the state today as we mourn the passing of Tom Slade. Tom was a tremendous advocate for Florida families during his time in Tallahassee and at home in Jacksonville. Under Tom’s leadership, the Republican Party of Florida thrived. As Chairman, he helped put our state on a path towards economic prosperity and personal freedom. Simply put, the Republican Party of Florida would not be where it is today were it not for Tom’s vision and dedication. Ann and I offer our sincerest condolences to Tom’s family today as we mourn his passing,”
Former Governor Jeb Bush:
“As Chairman of our Party in the 1990’s, Tom Slade set the Republican Party of Florida on an extraordinarily successful path that is still yielding results today. Capitalizing on the important work of his predecessors, Tom built a state party that is second to none, and this historical era of Republican electoral triumphs and policy achievements is rooted in the work and legacy of Tom Slade.“Tom was the Republican party chairman for two of my races for Governor, and his counsel and leadership proved invaluable. You don’t always get it right as a candidate, and I can tell you from experience that Tom Slade certainly let you know when you didn’t!“He was a bold and decisive leader who inspired others to get on board with the causes and campaigns he was passionate about throughout his time in public office and in the political arena. And, if you found yourself on the opposite side of a campaign, he was a true force to be reckoned with politically! Tom also had a huge heart, a larger than life personality and a truly wonderful sense of humor. He was a blast to be around.“Columba’s and my prayers are with Tom’s family and his many friends during this sad time. We know Tom will be remembered fondly throughout Florida for his legacy of public service and leadership.”
Former Governor Charlie Crist:
“Tom Slade was a giant of Florida history. His memory lasts in the hearts of those who knew him.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:
“Tom Slade defined the modern state Party Chairman. He was wily, witty, tough and generous. He knew fundraising was vital to mass communication but that organization won elections. The Chairman nurtured promising talent and massaged bitter primaries. He brought the RPOF out of the proverbial phone booth and into an era of electoral dominance. He would be most displeased if we squander that legacy.”
Senate President Don Gaetz and Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner
“On behalf of the Florida Senate, we offer our condolences to Tom’s family and pray that fond memories will comfort all who loved him as they mourn this great loss.
“Tom served as chair of the Florida GOP during the Golden Age of Florida’s Republican Party. He will be long-remembered for his commitment to our party, for his tireless work on behalf of Republican candidates and for paving the way for future generations of conservative leaders across our State.”
House Speaker Will Weatherford:
“We’ve lost a great man in Tom Slade. Tom was able to champion the Republican cause with grit and incredible effectiveness. With Tom, you may not have always agreed with what he said, but you couldn’t help but love the way he said it. I will never forget how Tom took time to mentor me in college, and I will never forget the lessons I learned from him. Courtney and I offer our prayers for Tom’s family as they are grieving over this loss.”
State Senator Aaron Bean:
“It’s very sad. This man truly was a visionary for the Republican Party. When he took the reins – GOP held one statewide office, U.S. Sen. Connie Mack — control of both the House and Senate in Tallahassee was Democrats and he had the vision and where-with-all that ‘we can do this’ if we come together as a team and he painted a vision for everyone to join and he was the leader. He was the one who turned the tide. After his leadership we saw Jeb Bush get elected, we saw Cabinet officers get elected and we saw both the House and Senate turn Republican.
“He was a giant in both stature and in his reputation and he will truly be missed.
“I think a lot of people take his leadership for granted. Back then, it was a battle. It was a fight. He said, ‘listen if we come together as a Party we have a chance to make solid gains. ‘ And that is where he led us. He led us to the promise land – having a majority in both the House and Senate. And right now, we have all the Cabinet members as Republicans.
“He was a great guy. He was a personal friend of mine. He endorsed me in my Senate race and that was one of the turning points in my race two years ago. When we got Slade, in fact a whole bunch of other leaders were going the other way Slade said, ‘Bean’s the guy,’ and that was a turning point in my race and it is something that I will never forget and can never repay.”
Florida GOP chairwoman Leslie Dougher:
“Tom’s commitment to our party is unparalleled. He spent his life serving the people of Florida and was instrumental in building our party ot the success that it is today.”
Former Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry:
“He was and will always be remembered as a titan in Florida politics.”
Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) President and CEO Tom Feeney:
“Today, my dear friend and GOP legend in Florida, Tom Slade, passed away. Tom was larger than life in his passion for politics and his service to Florida.
“If I was asked to recount some of my most memorable moments in Florida politics to date, they would most certainly include Tom Slade. Tom was instrumental in multiple aspects of Florida’s transformation from a rural Southern state into a modern, internationally-renowned destination to visit, work and live.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight. We are all grateful to his service to Republican politics, candidates and the business community of Florida.
“Florida lost a good man today, but his mark on our state will live on.
“Tom Slade, rest in peace.”
Former Palm Beach Post Tallahassee bureau chief Brian Crowley, editor of The Crowley Report:
Few people were as quotable at Tom Slade. Few laughed as readily. Few fought as hard. Few did more to build the Florida GOP.”
Former RPOF Executive Director David Johnson:
“It’s hard to put into words what he meant to people that are in this town now. It’s been 15 years since he was chairman of the party, but there are so many people involved in governance, involved in campaigns, involved in running the state that owe a lot to him. … The main thing I remember about Tom was, he could be the ultimate in political bosses when he needed to be but he had the kindest heart and was so nice and fun to deal with and fun to work for. There’s people in politics that you work for and you respect but there are other people that are fun. Tom was always fun. He stepped out of a novel of politics of an older time.”
Prominent GOP lobbyist Mac Stipanovich:
“Tom Slade was a principal architect of the modern Republican Party in Florida and a man I would want in my foxhole in any desperate fight.”
“Tom Slade was a dear friend and mentor. He will be remembered for his leadership in establishing the most talented and most successful Republican operation in the history of Florida politics that I doubt will never be matched.”