JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tom Slade, who led the Republican Party of Florida as Jeb Bush and the GOP rose to power, died Monday after being hospitalized last week for heart failure, according to a statement released by a family spokeswoman. He was 78.
Slade led the party from 1993 to 1999, a period in which Bush lost a 1994 election to Gov. Lawton Chiles, Republicans took over the Legislature and Bush won the governorship in 1998.
The governor's mansion, House, Senate and Cabinet were all controlled by Democrats when Slade took over the party. Republicans have been firmly in control since.
"Tom Slade set the Republican Party of Florida on an extraordinarily successful path that is still yielding results today," Bush said in a statement. "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."
Slade was known for his sense of humor and toughness. He could be very blunt.
"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!" Bush said. "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."
Slade's political career began when he was elected to the state House in 1962. He was elected to the Senate in 1966.
He unsuccessfully ran for the GOP's national chairmanship in 1999 and later started Tidewater Consulting, a lobbying and political consulting firm.