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Chris Latvala says the moderate in the GOP race for Florida governor is not his dad

Chris Latvala predicts that the race for governor will be a campaign unlike any ever seen before in the Sunshine State, especially within the Republican Party.

The Clearwater Republican, first elected to the state House in 2014, has a unique view of the race, considering that his father, Jack Latvala, is now seeking to occupy the Governor’s mansion

Jack Latvala officially filed to run on Friday, but he will be making three appearances around the state Wednesday to give his campaign a proper introduction to the public and the media.  A press conference is set for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 1 p.m.

“I think that it’s something that he has thought about for a long time,” Chris Latvala said on Tuesday, specifically saying it was sometime last summer that his father talked to him about his desire to run for governor. “I certainly was surprised, but as time has gone by, I think that there’s definitely a path for him, especially with Adam Putnam announcing and then a week or two later changing his campaign manager.”

Immediately after Putnam ended a 10-day bus tour of the state to launch his campaign in March, his campaign manager, Kristin Davison, was relieved of her duties, as was political director Jared Small.

If anyone follows Chris Latvala on Twitter, you know that he has taken several shots at the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination. And he’s even more relentless in picking apart the Bartow Republican in an interview.

“Adam Putnam has not exactly set the world on fire,” Latvala says, declaring the race for the GOP nomination to be “wide open.”

With his entrance into the race, Jack Latvala and Putnam are now the two biggest Republicans in the race for governor, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also expected to enter the race and rumors continue to circulate that Ponte Vedra Beach Representative Ron DeSantis will also enter the contest.

Considered a moderate in today’s Florida Republican Party, conventional wisdom has it that his opponents will wrap the “M” word around Jack Latvala throughout the primary campaign, but Chris says the moderate in the race is not who you think it is.

“I think that, to the contrary, he’s a conservative who has a conservative record,” Latvala says of his father. “Keeping your promises to the people doesn’t make you a moderate, being mindful of the environment doesn’t make you a moderate.”

Fueling his argument is a litany of congressional votes that he says makes Putnam vulnerable in a GOP primary, such as voting to increase the national debt, supporting the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and pushing for “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“Conservatives believe in less government and, therefore, I would argue government shouldn’t be involved in your bedroom or your day to day life,” Chris says.

No one will ever call Jack Latvala “slick.” Chris Latvala says that’s part of the longtime state legislator’s appeal to voters.

“He’s not a typical politician,” he says. “He’s not going to be the skinniest and the best looking candidate, and he’s not going to sugarcoat the issues with voters. I think people respect that.”

Chris King calls for removal of all Confederate monuments

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King called Tuesday for the removal of all Confederate memorials in Florida.

Taking to Facebook, King posted, “It’s time to remove all the Confederate monuments in Florida. These monuments should be removed because we should not celebrate literal anti-American ideology or any ideology based on the oppression of any group of people.

“And to those who say these monuments are needed to preserve our history, I say we don’t need memorials celebrating this dark time in our history. As we’ve seen in Charlottesville this weekend, we live with the legacy of this history every day,” he added.

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor in 2018. The Republican field has Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater who’ve filed, with Latvala planning to make an official announcement Wednesday. Others, including Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran are raising money but have made no commitments.

Gillum also called for action on the monuments, but first called for conversation on them. Last week he also informed Walton County he would not be visiting their community until they took down the Confederate flag in front of the courthouse.

“Like many people, I want local governments to take action to remove these monuments. But more than just the necessary step of removing them, we need a real conversation in Florida about inclusion and building community,” Gillum said in a statement. “I created the Longest Table initiative in Tallahassee so neighbors could sit at a table together and discuss the most pressing issues facing them and their communities. Tough but honest conversations will help heal this state and country.”

King was more succinct.

“It’s time for Florida to put its fealty and energy not toward monuments to a divided past, but toward a vision of the future that provides for common growth. Florida values diversity, but simply saying so understates the case,” King continued. “Florida’s economic engine is built on diversity. We are a state of many races, faiths and languages, each making our state a great place to live in, and each underpinning our economy. But our economic engine has been held back for far too long by the ghosts of the past.”

Confederate memorials have been sources of racial tension for generations, but recently their presence has evoked public demonstrations and demands for their removal, notably in Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, and now in Jacksonville, while supporters of the monuments contend they are part of the state’s history. Last weekend efforts seeking removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Va., led to a protest march of white supremacists and the killing of an opposition protester, setting the heat even higher.

On Monday Gov. Rick Scott said the time will come for conversations on Confederate monuments. King said in his Facebook post the time is now.

“Removing Confederate monuments is not just the right thing to do for Florida values and its citizens, but the smart thing to do for Florida’s economy,” King continued. “In order to unleash Florida’s economic potential, and attract the jobs and investment we need to grow into the national leader we should be, it’s time to position Florida as a state with eyes set on the future.”

Adam Putnam: Nobody knows Florida better than I

Adam Putnam assured the 200 or so delegates to his breakfast at the Republican Party of Florida quarterly meeting in Orlando Saturday that he knows their towns, he knows their roads, he knows their barbecue places, and he knows their hopes, dreams, and struggles of living somewhere that’s not on an Interstate exit.

The Florida agriculture commissioner and former state lawmaker and former U.S. Congressman running for governor spun his theme of Florida being the greatest state, where everyone wants to visit or live, while pressing conservatism, urging that Florida must be “the launching pad of the American dream,” and warning of liberal uprisings, with “The left is coming for us!”

And, most of all, the candidate turned on his folksy side, reminded everyone he’s a fifth-generation Floridian with a ranch outside of Bartow, and strove to connect with Republicans in too-often-ignored rural areas and small towns from the Keys to the western panhandle.

Putnam, alone in the Republican race for governor until Friday, now has serious competition for the Republican primary nomination. State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater filed to run Friday and addressed the Republican convention Friday night. Potential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach was to address the crowd Saturday afternoon. House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes also is a real prospect.

On Saturday morning, Putnam was positioning himself as the grassroots candidate.

He spoke of how two-thirds of Floridians don’t have college degrees so the state must put more emphasis on technical training and less on trying to get everyone to go to college. He spoke of making sure everyone has the chance to start their own businesses, and don’t dismiss someone starting out with a lawn-care business.

“I know our state,” Putnam said. “I know every corner of our state. I’ve been down every four-lane, every dirt road. I know all the barbecue restaurants. If you need a tip I can tell you where the best pulled-pork meal is, where the best brisket is, who’s got the best chicken. I know our state like the back of my hand. I am dedicated to the future of our state.”

From there, he appeared to respond to Latvala’s comments Friday night, when the House Appropriations Committee chairman lashed out at other candidates, whom he didn’t name, whom he accused of forgetting the needs of the Republican Party of Florida while they pursued their own careers, and of raising money for their own causes, without contributing to the party.

“We’re going to bring this state together. And this party is a part of that. It’s an integral part of that,” Putnam said to the party loyalists at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. “It’s not us against them. It’s not Bradford versus Highlands. It’s not the party versus the electeds. You have seen me at your meetings and in your Lincoln Days…. I can’t succeed as a governor if we don’t succeed as a party.”

 

Jack Latvala: ‘I have never forgotten the party, I will never forget the party’

It’s got to be tough trying to explain why you are running for governor when you don’t actually want to say that you’re running for governor.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater tried that out Friday night at a dessert reception he hosted for about 200 people at the Republican Party of Florida’s quarterly meeting in Orlando. Earlier in the day he had filed his paperwork to run for governor, so that he might begin spending money to prepare for an announcement, but he’s holding off actually announcing his run until next week.

Yet these people wanted to hear from him, and there was a stage, microphone and public address system set up, so the longtime party loyalist and current powerful chairman of the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee took his place there, and then railed against elected Republicans who forget the party and don’t contribute money or time to the party.

“I have never forgotten the party. I will never forget the party,” he declared to the gathering in a five minute address.

“That’s one of the reason I’m looking so hard at doing what I’m doing,” he said.

On Friday Latvala joined Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam as a major Republican filing to run for governor. Putnam gets his turn to talk to the state Republicans gathered at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort Saturday morning, hosting a breakfast meeting. Two other major Republicans assumed to be mulling runs are House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Corcoran will not be attending the weekend meeting. There were mixed reports about DeSantis’s plans.

In his remarks, Latvala also went after elected officials and candidates who’ve spent their whole careers in public office, saying they don’t know what it’s like to deal with real-world business problems, a reference to the printing business he founded. He praised President Donald Trump as someone like him who came to government after running a business.

“We nominated a candidate who was an outsider who had good business experience instead of people that had been life-long politicians,” he elaborated later with reporters. “I thought Republican primary voters are going to want to continue that same trend.

“I’m like Donald Trump in that I have run a business, a successful business, I have signed both sides of paychecks, I have paid worker’s comp premiums, I have real-life experience. I haven’t always just gotten a government paycheck. That’s the similar area. There probably are some things that aren’t similar.”

Latvala intends to formally announce his candidacy next Wednesday in Hialeah. When asked why he didn’t just go ahead and explicitly talk about running for governor Friday night, he replied:

“I might want people to show up on Wednesday.”

It’s official: Jack Latvala opens up campaign account to run for Florida governor

As if we should be surprised, state Sen. Jack Latvala on Friday opened a new campaign account and filed paperwork with the state’s Division of Elections to run for Florida governor.

“My papers were filed by 5-year-old Rays fan Cooper Bishop!” the newly minted candidate tweeted shortly after noon, including a picture of a smiling boy wearing a Tampa Bay Rays uniform holding Latvala’s paperwork.

Latvala still plans to make an official announcement about his 2018 plans next Wednesday. Still, these filings are necessary first steps under Florida law for him to launch a gubernatorial campaign.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate’s influential Appropriations Committee, had said he would announce his future political plans on Aug. 16. He’s term-limited in his Senate District 16 seat next year; Latvala was previously in the Senate 1994-2002.

“As a small-business owner and public servant, I have a track record of getting things done and solving problems,” Latvala has said. “One thing you can always expect from me too is when I give you my word, I will keep it.”

The announcement was certainly expected. A clear signal of a gubernatorial run came when FloridaPolitics.com reported that Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee” retained prominent GOP ad maker Fred Davis.

Last week, Latvala sharply criticized House Speaker Richard Corcoran, particularly over the House’s efforts to overhaul VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, say9ing it was “all about making political points, all about trying to make headlines, trying to raise your name identification, whatever.”

Corcoran defended the legislation as an effort to bring “more transparency and accountability” to the marketing program.

Although Latvala is a fixture in Tampa Bay politics, he has never run a statewide race, and first must overcome a relative lack of name recognition throughout Florida.

Moreover, Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee,” has about $3.85 million on hand for the same period. But since he wasn’t actively running for office in 2018, Latvala had no on-hand campaign funds.

The only major Republican now officially running for governor is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Between his campaign account and fundraising committee “Florida Grown,” Putnam finished July with a little under $12 million on hand.

Also considering a gubernatorial run are Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has a supporting committee that raised nearly $1.3 million through the end of July.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post, with permission.

Jack Latvala adds two stops for Aug. 16 announcement

To outline his future political plans, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala added two more stops to his Aug. 16 announcement – turning what was to be a single event into something of a tour.

Last week, the Pinellas County Republican said he would publicly announce whether he will enter the race for governor with a news conference at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. While that stop is still on the docket, attendees at the event will not be the first to hear of Latvala’s plans.

Preceding the 1 p.m. Aquarium appearance is a 9 a.m. announcement outside Fire Station 7 on 24th Avenue in Hialeah. Then, at 5 p.m. Panama City time (6 p.m. Eastern), Latvala is hosting another event at the Sun Harbor Arena.

“As a small-business owner and public servant, I have a track record of getting things done and solving problems,” Latvala said. “One thing you can always expect from me too is when I give you my word, I will keep it.”

“And on Wednesday, I give you my word, you will know what my future plans entail.”

As for which other public officials will be at each event, Latvala said more details will be released in the coming days.

A three-stop tour — covering more than 600 miles by car — would normally be quite an unusual production, particularly if the longtime lawmaker does not announce a bid for governor.

And if he declares another statewide seat, it would come as a shock to many.

Another clear signal of a gubernatorial run came Wednesday when FloridaPolitics.com reported that Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee” retained prominent GOP ad maker Fred Davis.

Currently, the only major Republican running for governor is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Between his campaign account and fundraising committee “Florida Grown,” Putnam finished July with a little under $12 million on hand.

Comparatively, Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee,” has about $3.85 million on hand for the same period. But since he is not (yet) running for office in 2018, Latvala has no on-hand campaign funds.

 

Gwen Graham pledges public education as her priority, blasts Richard Corcoran

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham pledged Thursday to a number of educators and parents concerned about public education that she would make public education her top priority.

While meeting with a roundtable of teachers, former teachers, public education advocates, and parents in an Orlando restaurant Thursday, Graham blasted Republican efforts to promote charter schools, which she said was at the expense of public schools, and renewed her vows to abolish testing and school grades and bring back technical education.

“I give you my commitment, as governor this is going to be my priority,” Graham said. “I’m going to work on this every day. And we’re going to start from day one.”

Graham, the former congresswoman and former schools lawyer from Tallahassee, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park developer Chris King seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor in 2018. Adam Putnam is the only major Republican running, though others, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Senate Appropriations Committee Jack Latvala are mulling runs.

At the round table and later speaking with reporters, Graham blasted Corcoran in particular for cutting the deal that led to passage of House Bill 7069 in the Special Legislative Session this summer, a bill she characterized as a Republican attack on public education in order to promote private charter schools.

“What I believe is going on is a desire to privatize our school system, and strip resources away from schools that desperately need additional resources. They don’t need to have what 7069 has done, which is to take funding away from Title I schools, to strip away options for school districts if it gets a C or a D grade,” she said.

“And don’t even me started on the grading, because we’re going to end the grading of schools,” she added. “Everywhere I go I hear how damaging it is to the schools, the school districts, the kids themselves. There’s no point to it other than as a way to diminish and demoralize schools that are working so hard, and eventually strip the funding away from schools so we can privatize them.”

And then she turned to Corcoran personally, noting that his wife Anne founded a charter school.

“The legislators that behind this are making money,” she said. “They financially benefit from what he is doing to the detriment of nine out of ten kids in Florida who go to public schools.”

 

Jack Latvala hires prominent GOP ad maker Fred Davis

While not yet official a candidate for Florida governor, state Sen. Jack Latvala has made a major hire: Fred Davis, who was once described as the “GOP’s most notorious ad man.”

Latvala tells Florida Politics that Davis has been retained by his Florida Leadership Committee.

Latvala has said he will announce his 2018 plans on August 16.

Hiring Davis is the clearest indication yet that the Pinellas Republican will enter the gubernatorial race. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the only other declared major GOP candidate, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are considering running.

Davis, formerly chief media strategist for 2008 Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain, heads Hollywood-based Strategic Perception Inc. and is considered a guru of attention-grabbing political videos. He is also one of the most sought-after media consultants for conservative candidates, having worked with top GOP names such as George W. Bush, Jon Huntsman, Jeff Flake, Chuck Grassley, Ben Sasse, Rick Snyder and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

One stat about Davis you’ll hear coming from Latvala’s camp is that the ad man’s clients went 12-for-12 in the previous non-presidential election cycle.

With a long resume, Davis is perhaps best known for producing McCain’s outrageous “Celebrity” ad – which compared Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton – as well as the “demon sheep” spot for U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, credited for helping her win the 2010 California Republican primary.

McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt called Davis as the “most creative person in the business – period.” NPR also described him as “the closest thing political advertising has to an auteur. Unlike just about any political media guru out there, Davis embraces weirdness.”

Although he is very good at the positive ad, as he did for Elizabeth Dole in 2002, Davis is at his best when running negative. Strategic perception spots have included giant rats running loose in Atlanta, a massive hairpiece on the Illinois statehouse and even a “full-length Western cowboy song.”

Always courting controversy, Davis faced a strong backlash in 2012 after The New York Times published a 57-page document (commissioned by billionaire Joe Ricketts) for a $10 million campaign against Obama’s re-election.

“The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good,” tried to portray the president as “a metrosexual, black Abraham Lincoln,” suggesting Obama would respond to the ads by playing “the race card.”

Despite being initially approved by Ricketts’ Ending Spending Action Fund, the ads were later disavowed after the strategy leaked out to the press; the spots were never aired.

Nevertheless, the Ricketts incident only cemented Davis’ reputation as hard-hitting and unconventional.

“If every other ad is yellow, you do your ad red,” David once said. “If every ad is loud, you do yours soft.”

In other words, bringing on Davis would be the perfect move for a Republican gubernatorial candidate looking to enter a brutal, no-holes-barred Florida primary.

Lawmakers take aim at opioid crisis

Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala held a roundtable discussion Tuesday in Palm Beach County with lawmakers, local leaders and public-safety officials to address Florida’s opioid crisis.

Palm Beach County is one of the epicenters of the epidemic. From January through May of this year, the county had 311 opioid overdoses, compared to 258 over the same period in 2016, according to numbers from Latvala’s office. The county totaled 592 opioid-related deaths in 2016.

“This is obviously an issue that is on all of our minds,” Latvala, R-Clearwater, said during the discussion at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth Campus. “Everybody can make proclamations and declarations, but it’s when rubber hits road, that’s when things get going. I am here to listen and learn about this crisis.”

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the country, with 52,404 fatal overdoses reported in 2015, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Opioid addiction drove the epidemic with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers and 12,990 deaths related to heroin.

Palm Beach County has taken $1 million out of reserves to address the epidemic on a local level. During this spring’s legislative session, state lawmakers passed bills to address what are known as “sober homes” — a major issue in Palm Beach County — and to crack down on people who traffic in fentanyl, a deadly painkiller sometimes mixed with heroin.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay presented statistics about the opioid crisis and said the county had spent more than $200,000 on Narcan, an opiate antidote used in emergency situations.

“The epidemic is impacting the manufacturing industry and business communities,” McKinlay said. “People cannot pass drug tests because of this. The bigger picture is that addiction is a disease. We want to break the stigma of addicts because nobody wakes up one day and chooses to become an addict.”

Gabrielle Finley-Hazle, CEO of St. Mary’s Medical Center, described newborns being treated in hospitals for drug withdrawal. The newborns experience the same symptoms that an addict would experience, including tremors, fever, seizures and pain.

“This is concerning for our community,” Finley-Hazle said. “What will happen when these babies are older? We need prevention programs to help addictive moms, treat patients for detox and for educating children.”

Emilio Benitez, president and CEO of ChildNet, a community-based care agency that contracts with the state, said the opioid crisis also is having an impact on the child-welfare system. Benitez said 45 percent of Palm Beach County children removed from their homes since January were a result of parents abusing opioids. The number was 31 percent in Broward County.

Solutions proposed during Tuesday’s discussion included more beds and centers for treatment and recovery, funding for medical and emergency personnel, education programs and counseling programs to assist families of addicts.

Among the participants in the meeting was Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican whose district includes part of Palm Beach County. Negron and Latvala, the Senate’s chief budget writer who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018, are two of the most influential political figures in the state.

“The purpose of this discussion was for President Negron and Senator Latvala to provide resources to use,” McKinlay said. “It’s for them to hear the problem to create ideas and projects for local action plans.”

Republish with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala to speak at Florida GOP meeting

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala are both set to speak at the Republican Party of Florida’s Quarterly and Executive Board Meeting this weekend.

The Friday and Saturday event at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando will feature a handful of appearances open to the press, including a “Dessert with Sen. Jack Latvala” Friday at 9 p.m. and an “Up & Adam Breakfast” with Putnam Saturday at 8 a.m.

Putnam’s event will be followed up by a talk from Fox News contributor Stephen Moore, with the RPOF Executive Board set to meet from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Putnam is currently the only major Republican candidate running to be Florida governor, though Latvala could join him in the race as soon as next week. The Pinellas County Republican is set to announce his 2018 plans on Aug. 16 at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Both men have millions socked away in their political committees. Putnam ended July with $11.6 million on hand between his campaign and committee, “Florida Grown,” while Latvala had $3.84 million on hand for his committee, “Florida Leadership Committee.”

A couple more big name Republicans are also mulling a run, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran whose committee neared $3 million in total fundraising last month. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is also considering a run.

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