Jack Latvala Archives - Page 4 of 52 - Florida Politics

Online is the next battleground in governor’s race

Shortly after a “Liberal Jack Latvala website launched, an anti-Adam Putnam/Richard Corcoran Twitter account has started tweeting criticism of the declared and presumptive GOP candidates for governor.

The “Conservative Watch” account, which goes by the handle @CWNewsUpdates, was created in June, billing itself as “your source for the latest news and commentary on politics and business by conservative leaders and writers.”

On Wednesday, it tweeted that “Adam Putnam wants you to think he’s a citrus farmer—but for 21 yrs he’s farmed campaign cash from special interests.” A photo of Putnam carried the caption, “Career Politician for more than 20 years.”

On Thursday, a second tweet posted: “Richard Corcoran said he would fight Crony Capitalism. In reality, he restored all funding to Florida’s corporate incentive slush fund,” apparently referring to Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, and/or VISIT FLORIDA, the tourism marketing agency.

Putnam, the current Commissioner of Agriculture, is actively campaigning for the GOP’s 2018 nomination for governor. Corcoran, the state’s House Speaker and Land O’ Lakes Republican, is widely expected to enter the governor’s race next year.

Last week, a website surfaced after state Sen. Latvala, the Clearwater Republican and Senate Appropriations chair, announced his bid for the governor’s mansion.

It was soon reported by POLITICO Florida that a “longtime political consultant for … Putnam is behind (the ‘Liberal Jack Latvala’) website.”

Putnam spokeswoman Amanda Bevis told POLITICO Florida the site is not “a campaign effort”: “I saw it when it popped up in my Twitter feed like everyone else,” she said.

The website, however, has a disclaimer linking it to a political committee, United Conservatives for Florida. The “Conservative Watch” Twitter account does not.

Candidates weigh in on question about Rick Scott making Supreme Court appointments in 2019

Unsurprisingly, Democratic candidates for governor say the power to appoint state Supreme Court justices in 2019 lies with whoever wins next November, while Republican candidates are divided on the issue.

Progressive groups are now battling Gov. Rick Scott in court over his authority to replace the three liberal-leaning justices—R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince—who will be retiring in early 2019.

Scott, a Naples Republican who is term-limited, has said he plans to name their replacements the morning of his last day in office, Jan. 8. That’s because, his attorneys have argued, their age-required retirements also will become effective Jan. 8.

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause counter that Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day they retire, and their final judicial terms last till midnight.

The Supreme Court itself, in a non-binding 2006 advisory opinion, said appellate vacancies may be filled by a governor only “upon the expiration of the term of the judge or justice.”

We asked the thus-far declared candidates in the race what they thought. The two major Republicans running, Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala, are split.

“We tried to pass a bill … in a constitutional amendment a couple of years ago, just for the very reason of taking away the doubt and the controversy on that and the voters didn’t deem it necessary to approve it, so I think that probably the new governor has the right to make the appointments based on the presentations that have been made to me,” Latvala told WMNF radio last week.

In 2014, lawmakers placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot, backed by Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, that would have given Scott the power to name the new justices. But it failed to gain the required 60 percent approval.

Putnam won’t offer his opinion: “This is something that the Legislature attempted to clarify and we’ll see what the court decides,” Putnam said while speaking with reporters in Temple Terrace on Monday.

When asked what he personally believed, the current Agriculture Commissioner pleaded ignorance. “Look, I’m a farmer, man, I’m not a lawyer,” he replied. “I think it’s an appropriate decision for the courts to make.”

Meanwhile, the three major Democrats running for governor all believe the power lies with the incoming chief executive.

“Rick Scott’s last-minute power grab to pack and stack the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t just violate our Constitution — it’s an affront to the people of Florida who rejected Scott’s proposed court-packing amendment in 2014,” former Congresswoman Gwen Graham said. She represented north Florida’s 2nd Congressional District in 2015-17.

Andrew Gillum “absolutely supports the League of Women Voters’ action to prevent Governor Scott from making these ‘Midnight Appointments,’ ” campaign spokesman Geoff Burgan said.  He added that Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee, is going to play an active role in the 2020 political redistricting effort.

Added the Chris King Campaign in a statement: “It’s telling that Republicans, (who) felt that President Obama shouldn’t be able to name one new justice to the (U.S.) Supreme Court in his entire last year in office, now think Rick Scott should get to name three to the state Supreme Court on his last day.” King is a Winter Park developer.

Discussing Confederate monuments, Adam Putnam warns not to ‘sanitize history’

Adam Putnam said Monday he remains opposed to removing Confederate monuments, including the one situated in front of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

“The important thing is for our society to rise up and stand together and send a clear statement that (hate) won’t be tolerated in this country,” said Putnam, speaking to reporters after meeting with supporters at a Temple Terrace restaurant.

“It’s far more important to focus on eradicating hate today than focus on sanitizing history. The issues today are what we should be focused on. And when we see that type of ugliness in our society, whether it’s in Charlottesville, or Gainesville, or anywhere else, it’s important that we call it for what it is.”

Putnam was asked if that meant he disagreed with the Hillsborough County Commission voting to relocate a 106-year-old statue currently located in front of a county courthouse annex in Tampa.

“What it means is that I am entirely focused on sending a clear message that we don’t tolerate hate, and we don’t tolerate anti-Semitism, and we don’t tolerate white supremacy, and we don’t tolerate bigotry of any kind of any form,” he replied, declining to specifically address the situation in Hillsborough County.

“It’s also important that we apply the lessons of history today and the future,” he added. “If you don’t know your history you’re going to repeat the mistakes of the past. I think it’s important that people know the horrors of the Holocaust. I think it’s important that people know the horrors of what happened on 9/11. It’s important that we learn what happens to the world, when evil is allowed to prevail.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat who is also running for governor, has called on Governor Rick Scott to remove the Confederate monument from the Capitol ever since the violence in Charlottesville occurred nine days ago. When Putnam was asked last week if he agreed with Gillum, he said he was not aware of the statue’s existence.

Gillum chided Putnam for that remark on MSNBC on Sunday.

“My response to that is, what a luxurious place to be,” Gillum told host Joy Reid. “The fact that you don’t have to be aware that these kinds of symbol of division and derision greet people as they enter the Old Capitol.”

The gubernatorial field has increased in the past week with Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala formally entering the race. Putnam declined to speak about Latvala and, instead, said he was focused on his “positive, conservative vision for the future of Florida and who believe that my agricultural experience and public service combined to provide the type of leadership that Florida needs.”

Latvala and others have been criticized Putnam for his rush to demonstrate his fealty to the NRA, including tweeting that he was a “proud sell-out to the NRA.” Putnam said Monday he wouldn’t back away from his strong advocacy for the organization.

“I’m a lifelong supporter of the Second Amendment,” he said. “I’m a life member. All my kids are life members. My son got a shotgun for his baptism present. It’s no secret to anyone that I’m a pro gun candidate and a pro gun individual. Even if I wasn’t running for governor, it’d be no secret that I support Second Amendment rights and the NRA.”

Putnam chatted with reporters following a 25-minute version of his basic stump speech at Lupton’s Buffet in what his campaign said was the 13th “Up & Adam” campaign breakfast since he announced his gubernatorial candidacy back in May. The speech again touched on his revised pitch about Florida being a “reward for a life well lived someplace else.”

“I think and I believe that with your help, if we put Florida first, we’ll make Florida the launch pad for the American dream, instead of just the Cherry on top,” he said.

Among those in attendance to hear Putnam included Attorney General Pam Bondi, House District 58 Republican candidate Yvonne Fry and former Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober.

Andrew Gillum touring college campuses

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced he’s heading back to campus, with an 12-school “back to school” tour of college campuses and one high school, starting Tuesday.

Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, is starting his tour at his alma mater, Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, on Tuesday. From there he intends to visit the University of South Florida in Tampa on Wednesday and Stetson University in DeLand and the University of Central Florida on Thursday. Next week he’ll continue his tour in Miami and Jacksonville, and later in September in Gainesville, Tampa, Panama City and elsewhere.

“Our young people are the brightest lights of our future — they speak into existence things they haven’t yet built, and create community with other people they’ve never encountered,” Gillum stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “They have a powerful role to play in our state, and that’s why I’m thrilled to see them on the campaign trail over the coming weeks.

Gillum faces Democrats Chris King of Winter Park and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee in seeking the Republican nomination to run for governor next year. The leading Republicans seeking that office are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

“I did some of my first organized work in politics when I was an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, and from my earliest days I’ve seen young people take on the biggest issues facing them,” Gillum stated. “That’s why we’ll be talking about higher education accessibility and affordability, infusing our public education with SHOP 2.0 vocational training, creating an economy that puts people first, protecting and expanding access to quality and affordable healthcare, and confronting our climate change crisis.

“We’ll talk about the need for healing and unity across our country and especially on college campuses, and the need to be civically engaged in your community,” Gillum added. “I’m thrilled to be going ‘Back to School’ this fall!”

CNN reports political favors led to 13K kids losing coverage; Chris King calls for probe

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is calling for an independent investigation after CNN report Friday alleging the Florida Department of Health used faulty processes and political motives to kick 13,000 chronically sick children out of the state’s Children’s Medical Services program.

“I’m calling for an independent investigation into the Florida Department of Health and the administrative actions that led to this systematic decision to rip CMS health coverage away from more than 13,000 sick children and what influenced this decision,” King said in a news release issued by his campaign.

The Florida Department of Health responded Friday by contending the cable news network used misunderstanding and outdated information to inaccurately characterize the program, and that the claims that politics  played any role “is 100 percent false.”

“CNN’s reporting demonstrates a misunderstanding of Florida’s Medicaid system, the health insurance industry and the ethical standards of the State of Florida,” the DoH statement said.

Yet the department’s response largely defends what has happened since 2015, not responding much to what happened in 2015. What appears to not be at issue is that in 2015 Florida removed more than 13,000 children from the Children’s Medical Services program, a state-run Medicaid program set up for chronically-sick children, and referred them to other, private, Medicaid insurers.

The CNN report contends that the CMS program was nationally respected and designed to handle the sickest of kids, but claims those transferred off included many children with serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness. It network reports that many of them were unable to find services under the new insurance plans which did not specialize in severe and chronically-sick children, which and which were not accepted by certain pediatric specialists.

CNN then cited experts and researchers in children’s health programs who said the data analysis, screening tools, and processes the Florida Department of Health used to decide which children would be dropped from CMS were deeply flawed, “completely invalid” and “a perversion of science,” in two comments.

The report then cites experts, including Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who allege the children were switched to the private Medicaid insurers to reward Republican contributors. CNN also breaks down campaign contributions from the private insurance carriers to the Republican Party of Florida and other Republican political committees.

“Local and national experts in the medical field have expressed concern that this may have been done for political reasons, which, if true, would be deeply troubling,” King stated, first on Facebook, and then in a news release from his campaign. “The bottom line is that these children went without critical and oftentimes life-saving medical treatments and services because the state of Florida dropped them from CMS.”

King, a Winter Park developer, faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahasse and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater are running for the Republicans.

The Department of Health addressed CNN’s allegations one-by-one, dismissing them all. Yet the DoH’s overriding concern is the argument that the processes and tools used in 2015 were discarded and in 2016 new and better tools were used. The department said all of the families of children removed from the program in 2015 were sent letters encouraging them to re-screen their kids for possible re-enrollment in CMS.

The department argued there would be no benefit to the private insurers to pick up the chronically sick children, so it clearly was no reward for anything.

“According to the state’s Medicaid agency [Agency for Health Care Administration,] it is not true that health insurers benefit from having higher risk patients on their plans,” the DoH statement said. “This is a claim CNN makes and then contradicts with the fact that sick children are costlier for insurance companies because of the care they need. There was no financial impact or plan profit from any change. Plans do not receive an individual rate for each enrollee, but rather one overall rate for the entire plan.”

At least since early 2016, the screening tools CNN reported on, which were used for about two years, were no longer in use, the department stated.

“Beginning on January 11, 2016, the department resumed clinical eligibility screening using the process defined by Rule 64C-2.002, Florida Administrative Code. The process includes a two-part approach to clinical eligibility screening – a physician-based, auto-eligibility process using diagnostic codes for chronic and serious conditions and a parent-based survey to ensure that all financially eligible children with special health care needs are given the option to enroll in the CMS Plan,” the DoH reported. “At any time, a parent or physician can request that a child be screened or rescreened for the CMS plan – a fact CNN omits from their story.”

And finally, the department contended, “Since the time CNN is speaking of, more than two years ago, there have been multiple changes in department and CMS Plan leadership.”

Jack Latvala vows more mental health, substance abuse money, rips Richard Corcoran

Speaking before a crowd of mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala promised more money for their causes and lashed out at Speaker Richard Corcoran and House Republicans for neglecting them.

Latvala, the Republican state Senator from Clearwater who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said Florida has neglected mental health and substance abuse funding because the House is too interested in cutting taxes to consider funding necessary services.

Speaking to the Florida Behavioral Health Conference at Walt Disney World, Latvala vowed he’d do a better job of getting money for those programs.

“Since 2000 we’ve cut $2.7 billion in recurring taxes. That’s $2.7 billion more each year that could be spent on mental health, substance abuse, education, environment, all of the things that we have to provide as a state for our citizens,” Latvala said.

“This area that you work in has not been properly death with, has been actually neglected,” he added.

At one point Latvala recognized Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, the chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Committee, and said the lack of funding for mental health and substance abuse programs was not Brodeur’s fault, but his boss’s. And then he ripped into Corcoran, who may announce a campaign to run for governor himself.

For now, Latvala’s rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Richard Corcoran, what he knows about real-life problems like you deal with every day, he reads in a book. He also reads in that same book, the Koch brothers’ manifesto, about how you first cut taxes, and how people should help themselves, and the government should not people,” Latvala said.

Latvala accepted some of the blame for limited funding for mental health and substance abuse programs, confessing he was new at appropriations and “maybe we dropped the ball a little” in dealing with the House budget proposals this year. But he said it would not happen again.

“I will guarantee you Senate support for any budget amendment that calls for increases in substance abuse funding,” he said, drawing thunderous applause.

He then spoke of the heroin and opioid epidemic and said “This is not satisfactory to have 20 or so Floridians dying every day from opioid overdoses.”

Firefighters in Orlando, Miami back Jack Latvala for governor

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala has picked up endorsements of two major firefighters unions in his quest for the Republican nomination to run for governor next year, his campaign announced Thursday.

The endorsements come less than 24 hours after Latvala formally kicked off his campaign Wednesday in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City.

Latvala received the endorsements of the Miami Association of Firefighters, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 589; and of the Orlando Professional Firefighters, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1365.

“Local 1365 is grateful for the support that you have given to firefighters and other first responders during your time in the Florida Legislature,” Orlando Professional Firefighters President Ron Glass stated in a letter to Latvala quoted in a news release from Latvala’s campaign. “Your ability to reach consensus with members of both parties was instrumental in providing firefighters from across the state of Florida with stable careers, better working conditions and a pension that allows them to retire with dignity.”

Latvala faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination. Democrats running include former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park developer Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“The firefighters of this state have forged a very strong bond with you and you have proven capable of making the difficult decisions to ensure that your firefighters are afforded equitable safety condition and benefit levels,” Miami Association of Firefighters President Freddy Delgado stated in a separate letter quoted by the campaign. “Some of those decisions have included protection of our current defined benefit retirement and fighting for firefighter cancer presumption in the State of Florida.”

Latvala kicked off his campaign outside Fire Station #7 in Hialeah.

“I stood with more than 100 first responders when I kicked off my campaign outside Fire Station #7 in Hialeah yesterday to show my continued support for the men and women who work so tirelessly to protect all Floridians,” Latvala stated in the release. “I am humbled and honored to have their support and thank the Miami Association of Firefighters Local 587 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and Orlando Professional Firefighters Local 1365 for joining me in my campaign to be the state’s next governor.”

Top Senate Republicans holding Big Apple fundraiser Thursday

If you’ve ever dreamed of slurping spaghetti with state senators, top Florida Republicans have an offer you can’t refuse, so long as you can snag a flight to the Big Apple pronto.

Senate President Joe Negron will make a fundraising trip to New York Thursday with the two senators set to succeed him in his role, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson. Also attending are Senate budget chief and gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala as well as Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley and Anitere Flores.

Don’t worry about accommodations, either – the last minute invitation to the fundraiser says the powerful cadre of politicians has organized a discounted rate at the Ritz Carlton. It’s not home, but it’ll do for a night.

Whoever manages to get to New York by 6:30 p.m. Thursday will have the opportunity to sit down with the Tallahassee elite at the city’s “Quality Italian” restaurant which, for whatever reason, is a steakhouse. Don’t worry, the menu includes a handful of classics from the old country.

Those fortunate enough to be able to spend a Friday evening in the city can also drop by a cocktail hour at the posh Ascent Lounge. A drink will set you back about $20, and you better be a fan of vodka.

To RSVP, call Kelly Schmidt at 407-415-2879. You might need to call her from the plane.

The invitation is below:

Sometime surly senator enters Florida’s governor’s race

Jack Latvala — a powerful, sometimes surly state senator seen as a moderate Republican voice — entered the race for Florida Governor Wednesday, taking on a better-known, more conservative and better-funded primary opponent Adam Putnam for the GOP nomination to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

Latvala publicly announced his candidacy at a fire station in a Hialeah, a Hispanic-majority city that borders Miami. In the crowd were groups of senior citizens, police officers and state employee union members. He also was joined by his son Chris, who is a state representative. He later planned to stop at a Tampa Bay-area aquarium in his hometown of Clearwater before ending the tour at a Panama City marina.

Latvala is considered a moderate Republican and told the group he is proud to have friends on both sides of the political aisle.

Republican challenger Putnam is the incumbent agriculture commissioner. Democrats seeking the seat Scott must leave due to term limits include former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Leading up to his announcement, Latvala has spent time talking about the need to make sure rural Florida is also benefiting from the state’s economic rebound, and he’s spoken out about the need to treat opioid abuse as a crisis.

Latvala, 65, has served two stints in the Florida Senate, the first from 1994 to 2002, when he left because of term limits. He returned to the Senate in 2010 and will again be term-limited next year. He is the current Senate budget chairman and has previously led the chamber’s efforts to tighten ethics in state government and require political candidates to be more transparent about fundraising and campaign spending.

“He fights very hard for the issues he cares about, and sometimes that puts him at odds with some fellow party members, but he cares passionately,” said Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County GOP.

He’s not afraid to buck his party’s leadership and has taken more moderate views on issues such as immigration. He helped fight back an effort to change the state’s pension system that was supported by top Republicans and opposed by state workers, and helped kill a bill that would have opened Florida to fracking, an effort that was supported by many in the GOP.

But he will be entering the race as an underdog to Putnam, 43, who first ran for office 22 years ago and has seemingly spent his entire adult life building toward a run for governor.

“Commissioner Putnam has positioned himself well for this race and he’s been working for it, and I think he has the infrastructure at the early end to have that place as the front-runner,” said Power, whose group hosted Putnam Tuesday night.

Putnam was asked Tuesday night about Latvala’s entry into the race, and he chose not to discuss the new challenger.

“I’m focused on the race that I’m running. If you ain’t the lead dog in the fight, the view never changes,” Putnam said. “I’m just going to be working grass roots, pig-pullings and fish fries from Key West to Chumukla.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is also considering running for governor, wouldn’t say a word when asked about Latvala getting in the race, simply shaking his head “no” as the Leon County GOP barbecue wrapped up

Latvala, however, hasn’t been shy about poking Putnam, using Twitter to jab him even before submitting paperwork to get in the race last week.

After Putnam attended a Possum Festival, an annual event in a small Panhandle town that’s popular with politicians, Latvala tweeted, “While there will be a time to pose with possums, I am more focused on jobs in NW FL.”

And when Putnam said he was a proud “sellout” to the National Rifle Association, Latvala tweeted a political cartoon mocking Putnam, adding his own message, “I will never sell out to anyone, anytime.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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.”

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