News Anchor Deborah Gianoulis Jumps in Race Against Thrasher
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Emmy award-winning journalist Deborah Gianoulis, a fixture on Jacksonville television as an evening news anchor for almost 25 years, announced Tuesday that she was running as a Democrat against Sen. John Thrasher of Jacksonville, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Thrasher’s district stretches from Nassau County, through Jacksonville and Duval County, and includes parts of St. Johns and Flagler counties before ending in Volusia County.
Winning both Emmy awards and a Peabody award during her career, Gianoulis was the co-anchor of WJXT’s evening newscast. Since 2004, she has served as chairwoman of Save Duval Schools, an educational advocacy group.
Through Save Duval Schools, Gianoulis opposed SB 6, a bill to reform teacher performance pay that was sponsored in the Legislature by Thrasher. She hinted in her announcement that she was going to make Thrasher’s advocacy of the measure, which was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist, an issue in her challenge to the Republican.
“In recent years, the Florida Legislature has unfairly targeted teachers, parents, and local school districts rather than take responsibility for providing high-quality education,” said Gianoulis. “As a senator, I will fight to ensure that our children are well-educated and that businesses have the well-trained employees required to grow and diversify the economy.”
Despite running as a Democrat, Gianoulis is claiming the mantle of the late Jim King, a long-time Jacksonville Republican leader who served as Senate president.
“I greatly admired the late Sen. Jim King for his commitment to doing right for the citizens of his district and Florida without regard for partisanship,” said Gianoulis. “As a candidate, and a senator, if elected, I will strive to follow Sen. King’s example of leadership and statesmanship. I will listen to citizens rather than to special interests.”
Gianoulis announced her candidacy Tuesday afternoon, after a morning event where Thrasher kicked off his re-election bid at a fund-raiser with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Jacksonville. Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC endorsed Thrasher on Monday.
“I am happy to be here today with John to offer my endorsement of his re-election campaign for Florida Senate,” said Romney, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and is widely expected to try again in 2012. “John Thrasher has proven that he is a principled leader with strong conservative values. Florida needs leaders in the Legislature right now, like John, who will get the economy moving again and are committed to keeping taxes low and fostering a pro-business environment.”
“If re-elected to the Florida Senate, I will remain dedicated to affecting positive change for northeast Florida and will continue to lead with strong Republican principles and ensure that our district remains one of the strongest in our state,” said Thrasher, who had backed Romney’s presidential bid in 2008.
Thrashed received other support on Tuesday -- being named the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s “Most Valuable Legislator” for 2010.
“It is an honor to receive the Most Valuable Legislator award from the Florida chamber,” said Thrasher, who is only the second senator to ever win the award. “I am proud of the work we have done this year to create jobs and continue positioning Florida as a strong competitor in the global economy, and I will keep fighting for the business community in the years to come.”
The chamber praised Thrasher for his efforts leading the fight for SB 6, a measure to reform teacher performance pay, as well as his advocacy for legal reform.
“Despite strong opposition from union leaders, Senator Thrasher remained steadfast in his commitment to innovative education reforms,” wrote the chamber. “His dedication to common-sense government paid dividends during this year’s session – Governor Crist signed an important Florida chamber-backed bill sponsored by Senator Thrasher that provides for greater transparency and accountability in state contracts with private attorneys and limits plaintiff trial-lawyers’ profit to $50 million.”
Thrasher, who served as House speaker, won the Senate seat after a special election in 2009. Besides Gianoulis, Thrasher is facing a Republican primary challenge from dermatologist Charles Perniciaro, a critic of SB 6 who had been a registered Democrat until April 30.
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