Will Brent Sembler thwart John Thrasher’s FSU ambitions?

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As thousands of FSU students, staff, and alumni congregate in Dallas to kick-off the top-ranked football team’s defense of its national championship, intrigue about who will next lead the university continues to build.

State senator John Thrasher, a former House speaker who is currently chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign, is the frontrunner for the job. However, it is the politics surrounding the gubernatorial race which could be the staunchest obstacle to Thrasher achieving his lifelong goal of leading his alma mater.

There is speculation that board member Brent Sembler, a prominent St. Petersburg developer and political fundraiser, has been persuaded by trial lawyer allies of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist to block Thrasher’s application.

Rumors are swirling from Dallas to Tallahassee that Thrasher has “a Sembler problem.”

Brent Sembler, son of mega-donor Mel Sembler, has previously helped lead the fundraising efforts of several of Crist’s past campaigns. This cycle he has raised money for Scott, but he is still thought to be close to his fraternity brother, Crist.

The search process was paused May 21 so the search committee could consider only Thrasher for the job. The move came after search consultant Bill Funk told committee members that such an “irregular” step was needed because Thrasher was casting a “long-shadow,” keeping other qualified candidates from wanting to apply for the job.

That pause created an outcry from faculty and students and ultimately led to the resignation of the search consultant and a reopening of the application process a month later.

The search committee is set to review the cover letters and resumes of all who have expressed interest in the job on Sept. 5.

A whittled-down pool will be asked to come to Tallahassee for interviews Sept. 8 and 9.

A smaller group of finalists would be asked back for additional interviews the week of Sept. 15, during which time the finalists would also meet with groups on campus.

The committee is scheduled to make a recommendation to the board of trustees on Sept. 22.

The board, which would still have to forward its selection to the Florida Board of Governors, is scheduled to meet Sept. 23.

Material from the Associated Press and the News Service of Florida is used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.