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Gardiner elected next leader of turbulent Fla Senate

by John Kennedy | December 10th, 2013

Orlando Sen. Andy Gardiner was elected Senate President-designate Tuesday by his fellow Republicans, positioning him to lead the chamber for two years following the 2014 elections.

Gardiner, elected to the Senate in 2008, after eight years in the Florida House, would succeed current Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who will oversee his second and final regular session of the Legislature next spring.

But a still-smoldering leadership fight makes the Florida Senate a combustible place. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, are in a bitter clash for the top spot after Gardiner.

Gardiner sought to downplay the possibility of leading a sharply divided Senate.

“This is probably one of the greatest groups of senators that’s ever been put together,” Gardiner said. “Our caucus and the Democratic caucus, we thoroughly enjoy spending time together. When we say there’s a family atmosphere, in my opinion, there really is.”

But when asked by reporters about the “family feud,” Gardiner headed toward the exit.

The outcome of that fight, Gardiner said, “will be determined by the caucus at a later date. Not today.”

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