Jack Latvala Archives - Florida Politics

Jack Latvala swears off electric cash, urges utilities to stop political donations

State Sen. Jack Latvala called Tuesday for electric utilities in Florida to stop donating to political campaigns and instead spend the money on improving their power grid infrastructure.

Latvala is a Republican gubernatorial candidate from Clearwater, has received electric company money in his political committee, Florida Leadership Committee, but not nearly as much as his Republican rival Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam has in his Florida Grown political committee.

While acknowledging that he’s accepted money from utilities in the past, Latvala says he will not in the future.

“Hurricane Irma showed us just how vulnerable we are with 6.5 million Floridians losing power after the storm,” Latvala stated in a news release issued by his gubernatorial campaign.

“In my home county of Pinellas, which was by no means the hardest hit area in the state, I heard from residents this week that were still without power. It’s time the utilities stop spending money on political candidates and instead protect the residents of this state.”

The release said state records shows in the 2018 election cycle the state’s largest utilities have already donated more than $3.6 million to candidates from both parties.

That includes $25,000 Duke Energy gave to Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee in July. It also includes $250,000 Florida Power & Light donated to Putnam’s Florida Grown committee in January. Both committees also have received power company checks in previous years.

None of the three major Democratic candidates, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park Developer Chris King, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, have received any power utility money this year.

Latvala acknowledged the money spent on campaigns “may not solve the entire problem.” After all, the utilities contend they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to harden their electrical systems.

“But it will be a good start,” Latvala stated. “And I’m sure the thousands of Floridians who are still struggling to live without electricity would be more than happy to hear our state’s utilities will stop political donations and instead focus on their welfare and needs.”

Gwen Graham: Hurricane Irma showed Florida isn’t as prepared as it should be

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham believes Florida should have been better prepared to handle the impact of Hurricane Irma.

“The state of Florida was not ready for this storm,” Graham declared Saturday night. The 54-year-old attorney and former Tallahassee-area congresswoman made the comments while delivering the keynote address before a record crowd at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee’s annual Kennedy-King Dinner in downtown Tampa.

Graham said the destructive storm – which hit the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane last Sunday morning before moving its way through the state, proves that state lawmakers need to address climate change and comprehensive hurricane preparedness.

Considered the establishment favorite, Graham began her 19-minute speech by talking about the selfless acts performed by Floridians throughout the state during what was an excruciatingly stressful time.

Graham’s Hurricane Irma experience involved setting up and supervising a shelter at Richards High School in Tallahassee. She said that all the preparations had been done correctly at that shelter, “but when the power went out across the state of Florida, it became clear that we were not as ready as we needed to be.”

Governor Rick Scott has received mostly laudatory reviews, even from Democrats, for his handling of the storm. But Graham didn’t go there. She insisted that her criticisms weren’t political , but practical, saying that the state has to be better prepared for when the next major hurricane comes Florida’s way.

“They have been decades in the making,” she said about the lack of proper preparation. “Hurricanes have grown stronger, but the state has not done nearly enough to prepare us for the changes we’re witnessing.”

Graham blasted Scott for prohibiting state agencies for even using the words “climate change,” and said she would act in a completely different and proactive way in trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Florida. Those measures would include joining states like California and New York in what is being called the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change. She also said she would ban oil drilling off Florida beaches and ban fracking throughout the state.

Referring to how the roads running to North Florida were clogged for days as people evacuated before Irma’s arrival, Graham criticized Scott for not reversing southbound traffic on the major interstates and state roads. But she said the state wasn’t prepared to do that because that would have cut off gas and emergency crews from reaching South Florida.

“Supplying every community is vital, which is why the state must develop a plan before the storm, capable of reversing highway lanes and also allowing for providing crucial needs for those south,” she said. “The day will come when we must reverse traffic to once again evacuate major cities, and the state must have a plan and a willingness to do that.”

Graham then spoke about the biggest tragedy connected to the storm – the news that eight elderly patients died at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after the nursing home lost power. Democrats have seized on the incident, with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson calling it “an emerging scandal of gargantuan proportions.” Graham has called for an investigation and made a public information request for Scott’s cellphone records shortly after a CBS affiliate in Miami reported Friday that the executives at that nursing home called Scott’s cell phone asking for help getting their power back on.

Graham cited legislation proposed in 2004 that would have considered safety measures to protect seniors in nursing homes — legislation that she said was stopped by industry lobbyists who said it was “too expensive.”

“Eight Florida seniors died because our system failed them,” she said. “They died, in part, because elected leaders failed to see the real cost, the human cost.”

Graham then threw a jab at House Speaker Richard Corcoran, saying that an hour after the media first broke the news about the deaths in Hollywood, Corcoran was tweeting about tax rates. “It’s a sickening example of how the politicians in Tallahassee have the wrong priorities for the wrong people,” she said.

Corcoran is contemplating a run governor; Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala are the only two major Republicans to have entered the race to date.

The other two Democrats in the race are Orlando-area businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who showed up to the VIP party before the dinner began and earlier spoke to more than 100 people at a Tampa craft brewing pub.

Still lurking in the shadows are two Democrats who bring tremendous financial resources to the race if they opt to enter it – Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and attorney/entrepreneur John Morgan.

DEC officials said 450 tickets were sold to the event, the most in the history of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party.

Local Democrats Karen Clay, Betty Castor and Tom Scarritt were all given awards earlier in the evening.

Jack Latvala critical of storm strategy

Republican candidate for governor and state Sen. Jack Latvala says state officials may have “overdone it” in preparing for Hurricane Irma.

Latvala, in a Thursday interview with the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau, questioned the mass evacuations of coastal areas, including in his home county of Pinellas.

“I’m not sure that we haven’t overdone it a little bit,” he told the Times/Herald. “Do you have to close down the state four days before the storm gets here?”

Latvala also said constituents have asked him, “ ’Why are we doing this so early?’ ”

“He stopped short of criticizing Gov. Rick Scott,” according to the report, saying the governor “is doing his job as he sees the need to do it.”

But he added, “I think he‘s being a little … cautious.”

The Associated Press reported Friday morning that Irma “weakened a bit more but remains a powerful threat to Florida with storm surges that could reach 10 feet in some places.” Irma’s winds dropped to 150 mph, still a dangerous Category 4 storm.

Jack Latvala adds $273K in committee cash

Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Jack Latvala raised $273,000 last month for his political committee, according to updated reports on the committee website.

The top contributor to “Florida Leadership Committee” last month was investor and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II, who cut a $50,000 check to Latvala.

The committee also took in $25,000 from veterinarian Richard D. Wilkes and Titan Healthcare Services.

The committee also spent about $100,000 last month, including a $20,000 payment to Tel Opinion Research, several small consulting contracts and a handful of donations to county level Republican parties.

The August haul leaves the committee with about $4 million in the bank heading into September.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate Appropriations committee, entered the race for governor in mid-August, and as of Sept. 7 had not turned in his first campaign finance report. Candidates and committees face a Monday deadline to file updated reports.

Latvala was the second major Republican candidate to enter the race after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Putnam had about $10.8 million on hand in his political committee, “Florida Grown,” at the end of July. He also had a little over $1.5 million on hand in his campaign account through the same date.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also considering entering the primary race. Corcoran had about $2.8 million in his “Watchdog PAC” committee at the end of July.

Will Weatherford endorses Ed Hooper for state Senate

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford is backing Ed Hooper for the state senate seat being vacated by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, who terms out in 2018.

“Ed Hooper was an important member of my leadership team when I was Speaker of the Florida House, I could always rely on him for good counsel,” Weatherford said, “I also relied on his ability to navigate the land mines of special interests in the Capitol to accomplish our conservative agenda. Ed Hooper will be an outstanding member of the Senate and that is why I endorse him.”

Weatherford joins Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes and Dana Young, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco in endorsing Hooper for the seat.

The Clearwater Republican spent eight years in the House representing District 67, which was taken over by Republican Rep. Chris Latvala in 2014.

Since exiting the Legislature, Hooper has been working as a consultant. Currently he is the only GOP candidate running for Senate District 16, which covers northwestern Pinellas and southwestern Pasco counties, including the communities of New Port Richey, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Oldsmar and Clearwater.

The only other candidate in the race is Democrat Bernie Fensterwald, who filed back in June. Through the end of July, Hooper had around $90,000 on hand in his campaign account compared to just $2,000 for Fensterwald.

SD 16 is a reliably Republican district. About 38 percent of the electorate are registered Republicans compared to a 35 percent share who are registered Democrats.

In 2016, Latvala was virtually unopposed for re-election and took over 99 percent of the vote against write-in candidate Katherine Perkins.

 

Jack Latvala joins call to save DACA

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala joined the chorus of so far mostly Democrats calling for preservation of the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program to let young, undocumented immigrants stay in the United States.

Latvala, the state senator from Clearwater, directed his call not at President Donald Trump, who has signaled he will end the President Barack Obama program as early as Tuesday, but at Congress and the Republican Party.

The push to preserve the program, which provides limited protected status to as many as 800,000 people nationally, and more than 100,000 estimated in Florida, has come out from numerous Democrats, but only a few Republicans, notably U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“We must lead with a compassionate heart, not by punishing children,” Latvala said in a statement first published on Facebook, then released by his campaign. “Florida is a diverse state and our economic success depends on a strong diverse workforce. If DACA ends in 6 months it will have a disastrous impact not only on hundreds of thousands of bright, promising young people but also on our business climate.”

Latvala’s statement came shortly after Democrats, notably Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, publicly challenged him and fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to speak out on the plan.

Latvala then turned that challenge to the rest of Republicans in Florida.

“Congress has dropped the ball on this issue like so many others,” Latvala stated. “It’s time for Congress to pass a law protecting Dreamers. I call on other leaders of the Republican Party in Florida to join me in supporting these children so they can come out of the shadows and legally secure jobs.”

Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, and fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park developer Chris King all issued strong statements supporting DACA and urging its preservation. Gillum declared that a revocation of DACA would be a “moral stain.” King called such a move “cruel and misguided.” Graham called it “unconscionable.”

Putnam, Florida’s agriculture secretary, has not made a statement regarding DACA.

Democrats have been pushing for weeks to raise awareness of young adults who were brought without visas to America as young children, or who have overstayed their visas while growing up, and the program that allows them to stay under certain conditions.

Those eligible have been dubbed “DREAMers” after the the “Development Relief And Education For Alien Minors” bills filed several times by pro-immigration members of Congress in recent years.

 

Bill Nelson and Rick Scott virtually tied, new poll shows

A new poll of the likely 2018 U.S. Senate race finds Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and likely challenger Gov. Rick Scott virtually tied.

The Florida Atlantic University poll, scheduled for release Tuesday, shows Nelson with 42 percent support compared to 40 percent for Scott.

“It is very early with many undecided voters,” wrote FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner.

The poll also took stock of the race to replace Scott as governor and found nearly half the voters for both parties – 47 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans – had not yet decided who they would support during primary season.

Republicans picked Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with 27 percent support, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran at 10 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis at 9 percent and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala at 2 percent.

Only Putnam and Latvala have launched campaigns.

Democrats’ top pick is John Morgan, who picked up 19 percent support despite not being in the race, followed by former Congresswoman Gwen Graham at 14 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 9 percent, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 8 percent and Orlando Businessman Chris King at 4 percent.

Levine, like Morgan, has hinted at a run, but has not yet entered the race. He has also played around with the idea of running as an independent in 2018.

The biggest dividing line between voters is how the Sunshine State should handle guns.

Over half of Democrats, 54 percent, said the state should outlaw guns in public places, while 55 percent of Republicans hold the opposite view.

About a fifth of Republicans are in favor of “open carry” gun laws, so long as a person is licensed, while only 16 percent of independent voters and 9 percent of Democrats felt the same way.

Just 8 percent of respondents said residents should be able to openly carry firearms without a license.

The survey was conducted by the FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative and took in 800 responses from registered voters through the internet and robocalls. It has a margin of error of 4 percent, while the polling questions on the Democratic and Republican primaries have a margin of error of 7 percent, due to smaller sample sizes.

Adam Putnam’s committee has raised $165K so far in August

Agriculture Commissioner and GOP candidate for governor Adam Putnam overcame a slow start to raise $165,000 for his political committee so far in August, though “Florida Grown” is still well below its monthly average.

Disney, Comcast, the Firefighter FactPAC and circus co. CEO Kenneth Feld each cut $25,000 checks to the committee. Adena Golf gave $15,000, pari-mutuel company Gulf Stream Park Racing Association pitched in about $14,000 across four contributions, and pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb threw $10,000 into the pot.

None of the money came until Aug. 11, making the month an unusually one for Putnam, who has cleared $1 million in contributions for his committee each month since he announced he was running for governor.

The committee has also burned through more than it raised this month, with $187,000 in expenditures listed between Aug. 1 and Aug. 22.

Consulting groups made up the bulk of the spending, including $42,000 to Lakeland-based Silloh Consulting LLC. The largest non-consulting expense came in the form of a $25,000 contribution to a committee controlled by former  St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who is running for his old job again this year.

Through the end of July, Florida Grown had raised a total of $14.7 million and had about $10.85 million on hand, and those numbers look unlikely to change much unless the last week of August sees Florida Grown take in a flurry of contributions.

Jack Latvala: State needs to spend $20 million more on opioid crisis

Republican candidate for governor Jack Latvala, who’s been aggressive in saying that Florida needs to do more to deal with the exploding opioid epidemic, on Monday called on Gov. Rick Scott to fund another $20 million to address the problem.

Latvala, a Clearwater state senator and Appropriations Committee chair, also is calling on Scott to immediately extend the executive order he originally signed in May, declaring the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency in Florida.

That request allowed the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Opioid State Targeted Response Grant. That funding has been used to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services, but is expected to expire within the next week.

“There have been reports that suggest 14 Floridians have died every day in the first half of this year due to opioids, which is higher than the number of Floridians we have lost per day at the height of the pill mill crisis,” Latvala wrote in his letter. “If this trend continues, by the time the Legislature passes a budget in March 2018, over 2,700 more Floridians could die. Florida’s citizens cannot wait until then for more financial resources to combat this public health crisis.”

Latvala participated in a three-hour discussion in Palm Beach County earlier this month regarding the opioid crisis, where he notes in his letter to Scott that he heard from longtime health officials that said that they have never experienced a crisis of this magnitude.

“The opioid crisis presents an existential threat to the people of our state as entire generations quickly being lost, or unable to meaningfully contribute as productive members of our society and economy,” Latvala writes.

The longtime legislator breaks down his $20 million request for funding into five different categories: He says $9 million should be allocated for residential treatment; $5 million for detox services; $3 million for outpatient treatment and recovery support; $2.4 million for prevention and $600,000 in specialized services.

“I think the sheer number of people that came to talk about this issue for a guy from Pinellas County where this is really not that big of an issue, it was stunning to me that there were that many people – the magnitude of the calls to the fire department, the involvement of the Sheriff’s department, just the whole community seems to be zeroing in on trying to solve this problem, so I think the state should do our part to try to solve it with the community,” Latvala told reporters after the hearing in Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Senate President Joe Negron, GOP state Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader of Boca Raton joined Latvala in that listening session in Palm Beach County earlier this month.

At a press conference in Tampa last month featuring Congresswoman Kathy Castor, health officials blasted the Legislature, saying that in the face of the opioid crisis, the state actually cut funding for mental health and substance abuse.

Florida ranks virtually last in the nation in spending on mental health and substance abuse, Rutherford said those on the ground fighting the epidemic needs more help from the Legislature.

Latvala officially announced his candidacy for governor two weeks ago.

“Governor Scott has been working with legislative leaders on further ways to help families who are struggling with addiction during the upcoming legislative session,” responded Lauren Schenone, a spokesperson for Scott. “Governor Scott will be announcing his legislative package to fight this national epidemic in the coming weeks, which will include significant increases of funding. We are hopeful the Legislature will support the Governor’s proposal. The Governor has been extremely focused on this issue and declared a public health emergency in May which provided $27 million in federal funds. This public health emergency was already extended today. Governor Scott has also made it easier for law enforcement to combat this epidemic.

Governor Scott appreciates the members of the Florida House and Senate for their focus on the national opioid epidemic.”

 

 

More firefighters endorse Jack Latvala for governor

Adding to endorsements from firefighters in Miami and Orlando, Republican candidate for governor Jack Latvala picked up more support today from first responders in West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton, the campaign said in a press release.

“I am humbled and honored to receive the support of the men and women of International Association of Fire Fighter’s Local 727, Local 1210 and Local 1891,” Latvala said in a statement.

“During my time in the state legislature, I have worked tirelessly to make sure the selfless work our brave first responders do is properly recognized and that they’re equipped with the tools and protections they need to best serve all Floridians.”

The rest of the release is below:

The West Palm Beach International Association of Fire Fighters Local 727, Boca Raton IAFF Local 1560 and Boynton Beach IAFF Local 1891, join Miami IAFF Local 587 and Orlando Professional Firefighters Local 1365 in supporting Latvala for governor.

In the West Palm Beach IAFF Local 727 endorsement letter President Thomas A. Wesolek called Latvala the “911 of the State Senate.” He wrote, “During your time of service as an elected official we have always been able to count on your word.  If you told us something was wrong, it was wrong.  If you told us you would fix it, you fixed it.  You are like the 911 of the State Senate because you can always be counted on to show up and not leave until the emergency is resolved.”

“No matter how thick the smoke or how intense the heat you have always had our back and you can count on us to have yours,” Wesolek added.

In the Boynton Beach IAFF Local 1891 endorsement letter President Dean Kinser wrote, “Senator Latvala, without question you have had our backs!”  He also wrote, “You are a man of good character, a straight shooter, and have the ability to get the job done.”

“In making our endorsement, your proven track record on important safety issues and benefits that protect firefighters and give their families needed assurances did not go un-noticed. During your time in the Florida legislature you were not afraid to take on the tough issues and showed true leadership while putting politics aside and speaking to the facts,” Kinser concluded.

Latvala, a state senator from Clearwater who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, was elected in 2010. He also served previously in the Senate 1994-2002.

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