State Sen. Latvala announces Florida gubernatorial campaign
HIALEAH At his campaign rollout for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary Wednesday, state Sen. Jack Latvala stopped short of fully blaming neo-Nazis for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
“I wasn’t there. I condemn all violence of people that are protesting,” said Latvala, R-Clearwater. “If people are peacefully exercising their rights, whether they be white supremacists or whether they be Black Lives Matter folks, you know, they have a right to demonstrate without having a mob attack them.”
When asked to clarify whether he equated Black Lives Matter protesters with neo-Nazis, Latvala said, “No, I’m not supporting Nazis, no.”
The question ended a hot press gaggle outside the Hialeah Fire Station. For much of the morning there, Latvala was flanked by union activists and Republican senators from the area who praised him, in both English and Spanish, as a straight shooter and described him as loyal to voters, colleagues, firefighters and first responders. Hialeah is majority Hispanic.
Latvala, known as a moderate Republican with a penchant for a somewhat brash way of governing, broke expectations of many political insiders by announcing his candidacy in what is shaping up to be an expensive, competitive GOP primary.
[email protected]: Let s go ahead and announce it. I am running for governor.
Right now the only other major candidate in the race is GOP frontrunner Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, but likely contenders are state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron Desantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach.
And as GOP politicos ponder how Republican primaries typically pull candidates to the right, some speculate that Latvala faces many challenges out of the gate.
But Sen. Rene Garcia waved away those concerns Wednesday.
“It’s not about being moderate; it’s about serving the people of Florida, and that’s what he’s done,” said Garcia, R-Miami. “He has a history of low taxation, personal responsibility and empowering local communities. That’s what being a Republican is all about.”
As for choosing Hialeah for Latvala’s rollout, Garcia said it was crucial the Senate’s budget chief, who has relatively low name recognition, get to know the biggest Republican city in the biggest Republican county (MIami-Dade) in the state.
“It means he’ll be spending a lot of time here,” Garcia said. “I hope.”
In a self-deprecating speech, Latvala said he might not be the best-looking candidate, most physically fit candidate or even the smartest candidate for governor, but he would be the candidate “who tells it to you straight.”
As governor, Latvala said, his priorities would include revamping roads and bridges; addressing the health care crisis, especially for places like Hialeah that have a larger elderly population; bringing more jobs to more counties; and dealing with the opioid crisis.
Last lawmaking session, Latvala helped secure across-the-board raises for state workers for the first time in roughly a decade. Unusual for a Republican, Latvala opposes making the state’s retirement system run more like a 401(k).
During his speech Latvala played up his aggressive nature, saying people who have served with him in the Legislature realize it comes with a steadfast commitment to keeping his word, a sentiment Garcia echoed. Latvala served in the state Senate from 1994 to 2002 and then reached his term limits. He returned in 2010 and will term-limit out again in 2018.
Latvala said he generally supports gun rights but also said his leading opponent, Putnam, who recently proclaimed himself a “proud #NRASellout” on Twitter, used a “poor choice of words.” Latvala said he’ll never sell out “to anybody on any issue.”
In addition, he called himself an “old-school Republican” who knows how to make a deal. As evidence of this ability, Latvala said, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, depended on him to land a controversial Everglades restoration agreement, SB10, that will designate land for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. The measure was a priority of Negron’s and dominated most of the last lawmaking session.
Latvala said that when Negron came to him, he fell back on his experience with old-school negotiating tactics.
“That’s when I started busting heads,” Latvala said.
[email protected]: I think I m best equipped to (meet our challenges) because I m the only candidate on either side who s run a business.