Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Jack Latvala files for Florida governor, becoming latest Tampa Bay contender

Get ready for the Jack attack.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, the gruff, longtime force in Tampa Bay and Tallahassee politics, on Friday filed campaign papers to run for governor in 2018 setting the stage for a Tampa Bay-centric battle for the future of Florida's GOP.

Latvala, 65, is the sort of pragmatic, give-and-take Republican legislator who has fallen out of favor with much of the base lately, but allies insist he is underestimated in a potentially crowded Republican field dominated by career politicians.

"The race promises to be extremely competitive, with Jack having a clear path as the pragmatic conservative, unafraid of reaching across the aisle, and with a lifelong record of delivering real results for our state and our community," said former U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores. "Pinellas should be excited about the prospects of a Gov. Latvala."

Latvala sought to maintain a modicum of suspense before his scheduled announcement tour Wednesday that includes speeches in Clearwater, Hialeah, and Panama City. But because the law forbids any campaign spending without a campaign account already set up, he went ahead and opened an account Friday.

"It means we want to be legal as we prepare for our three-city announcement tour next week," Latvala said, not quite confirming what everybody already assumed: He is running for governor.

He also tweeted out a smiling photo of a friend's son in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform holding Latvala's campaign paperwork. "My papers were filed by 5-year-old Rays fan Cooper Bishop!"

Latvala is running to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is term-limited in 2018 and expected to run for U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The burly and famously cantankerous Clearwater Republican is a clear underdog, and not just because he is widely viewed as a moderate.

Latvala's political committee had a healthy $3.82 million available to spend as of July 31. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who formally announced his long-expected candidacy in May, had $12.3 million on hand, while two other candidates exploring runs, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of northeast Florida, had about $2.8 million and $1.2 million respectively.

The field of Republican contenders is packed with Tampa Bay connections.

Latvala, is a longtime political consultant who has been a Republican kingmaker for decades; Corcoran, 52, is a Pasco resident and longtime Tallahassee operative; Putnam, 43, has been in elective office in Washington or Tallahassee for more than half his life and resides in Polk County, part of the Tampa Bay media market. DeSantis, 38, lives in Palm Coast near Jacksonville, but grew up in Dundedin before heading to Yale and the U.S. Navy.

The Republican primary could get very nasty very quickly. Latvala has never been one to back down from a fight. He and Corcoran intensely dislike each other and Latvala has already taken swipes at Putnam on Twitter.

A native of Oxford, Miss., Latvala began his political career as a young Republican Party operative in the mid-1970s at a time when the GOP was virtually powerless. He traveled across the state, recruiting GOP candidates to run for the Legislature.

While serving two separate eight-year stretches in the Senate, he also became prosperous running a direct mail business and shaping political messages for other candidates — county commissioners, sheriffs and state legislators. He makes $142,508 as the CEO of GCI Printing Services out of Largo, according to his 2016 financial disclosure, which lists his net worth at $7.4 million.

Latvala hopes his private sector experience sets him apart.

"As a small business owner and public servant, I have a track record of getting things done and solving problems," Latvala said in a statement earlier this week about his planned announcement Wednesday. "One thing you can always expect from me too is when I give you my word, I will keep it."

Latvala's candidacy will be a supreme test of his irascible nature. "Grumpy" is one of the more charitable words used to describe his volatile temperament. Even though retail politicking no longer has the cachet it once did, running for statewide office requires an endless amount of schmoozing at party dinners, fish fries and forums.

As the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations committee, Latvala is widely viewed as one of the most effective legislators and often is at the center of the senate's most thorny and complex policy debates.

He has never run statewide or faced serious challengers in his own races, but he has loads of experience on the inside of numerous tough campaigns across the state.

Latvala, previously married to former Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, last summer married Tallahassee real estate agent Connie Prince. Latvala has two children, including state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this story. Contact Adam C. Smith at asmith@tampabay.com. Follow @adamsmithtimes.

Jack Latvala files for Florida governor, becoming latest Tampa Bay contender 08/11/17 [Last modified: Friday, August 11, 2017 5:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]
  2. Editorial: Trump uses Americans' health care as bargaining chip

    Editorials

    Unable to persuade Congress to kill the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump appears determined to do the dirty work himself. The president's unilateral actions are aimed at driving up premiums, steering healthy people away from the federal marketplace and ensuring his inaccurate description of the law as a …

    Unable to persuade Congress to kill the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump appears determined to do the dirty work himself.
  3. Port Richey fire chief charged with DUI, hitting a cop in the face

    Crime

    PORT RICHEY — The Port Richey fire chief crashed a motorcycle, showed signs of impairment and hit a New Port Richey police officer in the face after being taken to the hospital Sunday night, according to a police report.

    A screenshot from the web site of Little Corona's Cigar Lounge, owned by Port Richey Fire Chief Timothy Fussell, who was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and battery on a law enforcement officer Sunday night.
  4. Trump: Cuba 'is responsible' for attacks on U.S. personnel

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he believes Cuba "is responsible" for attacks on American government personnel in Havana.

    President Donald Trump answers questions as he speaks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., in the rose Garden after their meeting at the White House, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, in Washington. [Associated Press]
  5. Sports anchor Tom Korun leaving WFTS after decades in Tampa Bay TV

    Blogs

    WFTS ABC Action News sports anchor and director Tom Korun is retiring from broadcasting after more than 14 years at the station and 31 years on Tampa Bay TV screens.

    Tom Korun is retiring after 31 years on Tampa Bay television.