Jack Latvala Archives - Page 5 of 50 - Florida Politics

Ed Hooper endorsed by Florida Professional Firefighters

Ed Hooper has received the endorsement of Florida’s Professional Firefighters.

The organization announced during its 73rd annual convention in Sarasota this week it was backing Hooper, a Clearwater Republican, in his Senate District 16 race in 2018. In a statement, Jim Tolley, the organization’s president and CEO, said it was honored to have worked with Hooper during his time in the Florida House and looked forward to the “same relationship in the Florida Senate.”

“We are excited to have a firefighter in the Florida Senate. Your 24-year career in the fire service, as well as your service on the Clearwater City Council, gives you unique insight into the needs of today’s fire service,” said Tolley. “We believe that you will continue to faithfully serve the citizens of Florida as a Florida Senator. Likewise, your leadership will serve the interests of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the men and women who have made the protection of life and property their life’s work.”

Hooper is vying to replace Sen. Jack Latvala in the Florida Senate in 2018. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Jack Latvala pledges to raise $50K over next six months to Florida GOP

Sen. Jack Latvala is stepping up to help the Republican Party of Florida, and he’s calling on others to follow his lead.

The Clearwater Republican took to Twitter on Wednesday to say he plans to raise $25,000 to the Florida GOP in both the third and fourth quarter, for a total of $50,000 in the final six months of 2017. Latvala, a prolific fundraiser, then challenged others to match it.

The pledge, and subsequent challenge, comes on the heels of dismal second quarter fundraising numbers for the state party.

State records show the Republican Party of Florida raised $338,942 between April 1 and June 30. The three-month fundraising period pales in comparison to previous fundraising periods by the Republican Party of Florida. The Florida GOP raised more than $4.1 million in the second quarter of 2016; one year earlier it raised more than $1.9 million in the same three-month fundraising period.

State campaign finance records dating back to 1996 show this year’s quarterly numbers are the the lowest in more than two decades. Records show the next lowest fundraising period was Nov. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 1996, when the party reported raising $572,531. There were three fundraising periods, state records show, where the state party reported raising no money.

POLITICO Florida reported that after the numbers were released, some party members took aim at Blaise Ingoglia, the party chairman and a Spring Hill state representative. According to the report, party officials encouraged state committee members not to lash out publicly and instead discuss “things like a family.”

On Wednesday, Latvala, who is mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid, tweeted that Ingoglia called him to ask for money for the state party. After he read the party raised the lowest amount in decades, Latvala wrote that he decided to do his part.

“I’m stepping up,” he tweeted. “$25K this quarter. $25K next quarter. Challenge others to match.”

Latvala’s political committee, Florida Leadership Committee, raised $458,303 between April 1 and June 30. Records show his committee raised $410,649 between June 1 and June 30.

 

Bob White wants to give GOP voters an alternative in governor’s race

For Florida Republicans unsure who to support for governor in 2018, Bob White wants to give them a staunchly conservative alternative.

One might add ‘libertarian’ as well: White chairs the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, which is “dedicated to working within the Republican Party to advance the principles of individual rights, limited government and free markets,” its website says.

The Florida GOP has occupied the Governor’s Mansion for nearly two decades. Several candidates — both officially and unofficially — hope to keep it that way:

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has more than $11 million cash-on-hand for his run and is the acknowledged front-runner.

— State Sen. Jack Latvala is all but in the race, crisscrossing the state to accept awards and gather contributions.

— There’s also talk of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis joining the field, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he won’t announce his 2018 ambitions until next year, but he continues to dominate the headlines and raise beaucoup bucks for his political committee.

So where does White fit into all of this?

The 60-year-old Suntree resident (that’s in Brevard County) has become another official candidate in the 2018 sweepstakes.

White says that, in a divided field, many Republican primary voters don’t want the “same old.” That, he believes, makes him a serious player.

“I’m predicting that somebody’s going to win the Republican primary with less than 30 percent of the vote,” he said Friday in Tampa. “And that means anything can happen. So we just gotta find a way to organize the grassroots to get them motivated to get out there and help us.”

Yes, White is optimistic. But he’s also angry about some injustices. And as anyone who runs such a quixotic campaign must be, he’s also an optimist.

Rock-solid conservative on issues like abortion, Medicaid expansion, and the escalating national debt, his platform is enacting serious campaign finance reform. That’s not something you’re likely to hear from political insiders Putnam, Latvala or Corcoran.

“I’m not going to be one of the big money candidates in this race, and that’s intentional,” he said. White is focusing on running against dark money and special interest contributions that he believes are fundamentally destroying the voice of the people in Florida’s legislative process.

“We’ve got to find a way to make that message, to get that message out because it resonates everywhere we go, every person we talk to about that issue agrees with us 100 percent and they become very fast supporters of ours,” he said.

White was speaking in a small studio at WMNF radio in Tampa, part of a local media blitz that included interviews with other radio and TV stations in the region as he begins the slog of a statewide campaign with virtually no name recognition (outside of the confines of the Liberty Caucus, which has about 1,500 members statewide).

While Putnam remains the big dog in the race, White said the Lakeland native is extremely vulnerable as the living definition of a “career politician” (the soon-to-turn 43-year-old Putnam has served in politics literally half his life).

Putnam is also vulnerable on some key votes during his tenure in Congress that he says will be fresh meat for attack from all other potential candidates. “It is going to be very difficult for him,” White predicts.

White admires Corcoran (who has accepted an invitation to speak at a Liberty Caucus’ Constitution Day Dinner event in September), but slams the Speaker as being somewhat hypocritical in declaring victory over Gov. Rick Scott in the Session-long battle to defund Enterprise Florida, the public-private state agency that the governor said was crucial to retain to recruit companies to come to Florida.

After it was all said and done, the Florida Legislature ended up funding $85 million this year to create what is known as the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund within the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The fund will finance projects that fit broad criteria to help targeted industries: rural infrastructure, transportation projects for local governments and individual training programs at state colleges and technical schools. There are no restrictions on how to disperse grant money, except that it “shall not be used for the exclusive benefit of any single company, corporation, or business entity.”

Nothing in the legislation requires an audit. There are no application requirements, no job metrics and no mandate that the project show it is developing jobs.

“Richard Corcoran was actually against corporate welfare until he was for corporate welfare,” quipped White in evaluating what went down with Enterprise Florida this year. He said the new law essentially creates a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for the entire state of Florida, “with an $85 million budget, and a board of directors of one.”

White supported Rand Paul for president last year, but said Donald Trump had done a good job in his first six months in office, notwithstanding his present coverage.

“I would prefer it if he would just lighten up on the tweets if would stop personalizing it as much as he is. He needs to be I think to a certain extent, he needs … to raise the level of the debate on a lot of these issues  and not take the bait that’s being put out there, but he’s got his own personality, he’s got his own way of doing business, he’s going to have to continue to do his own thing.”

Jeff Brandes, Dana Young endorse Ed Hooper

Republican state Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Dana Young of Tampa on Friday endorsed former state Rep. Ed Hooper in his quest to replace Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, who is term-limited in 2018.

Brandes called Hooper “a true advocate for his community … thoughtful, collaborative, and trusted.”

“These are some of the best qualities in a Senator and I’m happy to endorse him in his campaign for the State Senate,” he said. “He will help make Florida a more prosperous state for generations to come.”

Added Young, who left the House for the Senate last year: “As a former colleague of Ed’s, I can tell you from firsthand experience that he is a true leader and highly respected. I know he will make an excellent Senator and represent the people of Pinellas and Pasco counties with dignity and honor.”

Hooper said he was “honored” by the endorsements. Senate District 16 includes northern Pinellas and part of southwestern Pasco.

“They’ve set an example of how to work together to seek common sense and innovative solutions to Florida’s challenges,” he said. “Their continued leadership will make Florida a better place to live, work, visit, and retire.”

Hooper, a retired fire Lieutenant, served on the Clearwater City Council before spending eight years in the Florida House. He was term-limited in 2014. His only declared opposition is Democrat Bernie Fensterwald.

Carol Dover: Thank you, Florida leaders, for your hospitality

This Legislative Session was a tumultuous one, with several lawmakers holding to their convictions, refusing to negotiate, but in the end, compromise prevailed.

Thankfully, in the final hours of the Special Session, legislative leaders realized the unparalleled value of tourism to our state’s overall economy. By allocating $76 million of funding for VISIT FLORIDA, Florida will continue to elevate itself as the leading destination for travelers.

The state’s critical investment will continue Florida’s momentum as the world’s leading travel destination and promote growth that will create employment opportunities across a variety of sectors.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Florida’s economy and this significant support from our state leaders goes a long way to keeping our economy strong.

Gov. Rick Scott was relentless and steadfast in his support of our industry’s 1.4 million employees. Leaders in the Florida House and Florida Senate heard the voices of the constituents in their districts and came together to fund VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing efforts.

Sen. Jack Latvala ensured matching fund calculations were defined and protected local tourist development tax funds from being used as matching funds.

I’m proud of our 10,000 members who served as unyielding advocates for issues impacting the hospitality industry. This challenge presented an opportunity to engage our passionate ambassadors of the tourism and now it’s time to celebrate a victory well earned.

While extremely grateful, it is important to remain cautious.

Our industry’s work is far from finished and we must continue to educate our local, state and federal elected leaders. Tourism is the economic engine of the Sunshine State, with visitors in 2015 spending $108.8 billion, averaging $300 million per day. And with 113 million visitors in 2016, Florida is well on its way to becoming the No.1 travel destination in the world.

VISIT FLORIDA has been given the opportunity to hit the reset button on the way it operates. Now that we’ve been through the trenches, it’s time for our industry partners to get to work! VISIT FLORIDA’s has set an ambitious goal of 120 million visitors to our state in 2017. To get there, we must all work together to welcome tourists to our incredible state.

___

Carol Dover is President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) and serves on the board of directors for VISIT FLORIDA.

 

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri backs Ed Hooper in SD 16

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is throwing his support behind Ed Hooper.

Gualtieri announced Thursday he was endorsing Hooper in the race to replace Sen. Jack Latvala in Senate District 16. Gualtieri said Hooper’s “real-world, first-hand insight” will serve him — and Florida voters — well in the Florida Senate.

“For as long as I’ve known Ed Hooper he has been a staunch supporter of our law enforcement and first responder community,” he said. “His background as a firefighter gives him a unique perspective on the daily sacrifices of our men and women in uniform who protect and serve our neighbors.”

Hooper, a former state representative and former member of the Clearwater City Council, said he was pleased to have “one of the most proactive, engaged Sheriffs in the country” on his campaign team.

“Sheriff Gualtieri’s passion for protecting citizens is on display each and every day. He is constantly in our neighborhoods and communities getting feedback from residents and engaging with his deputies to keep our streets safe and morale high,” said Hooper. “I’m grateful for Bob’s generous support, and I look forward to working with him here in Pinellas County and in Tallahassee.”

Latvala can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits.

Jack Latvala: ‘It is very possible I end up announcing something in the near future’

Sen. Jack Latvala didn’t use an appearance at the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida to announce a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

Then again, he didn’t use it to quash any rumors about his plans for the future.

“We have several members of the press here today, so if I was to specifically make an announcement, then there wouldn’t be a reason for them to come to an announcement if I had one,” said the Clearwater Republican when asked what was in his future.

“I will say this: I have been involved in government in Tallahassee for a long time. I think I know the good and the bad, how many things happen and how to solve problems,” he said. “As I look at being term limited in the Senate, I obviously think about giving it a go and seeing what I can do. It is very possible I end up announcing something in the near future.”

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be considering a run for governor in 2018. If he decides to run, he’ll join Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the GOP race to replace Gov. Rick Scott. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also believed to be considering a run.

 “If I do it, it’s going to be based on the same principles that I’ve conducted myself. There might be some yelling, but mostly how I conduct myself is straight talk,” he said. “If people ask me a question, I give an answer. If I give somebody my word, I keep it. I work hard, and I think that’s what we need to have in our public officials at every level. I’m not going to be the best looking candidate, I’m not gonna be the slimmest candidate, but I think there’s not many jobs in government that I couldn’t do.”

When asked was going into making his final decision, Latvala said it wasn’t as much about making the final decision, but having enough time to make sure he could tell everyone he’s worked with over the years what his decision will be.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it,” he said. “I want to do it right.”

While Latvala’s political future was on many people’s mind Wednesday, it wasn’t the only reason Latvala attended the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida’s meeting. He was also on hand to discuss the 2017 Legislative Session, as well as the special session that followed.

Latvala called the 2017 Session “the worst one” in his years in the Legislature.

“We had, without a doubt, a tough session this year. By far, it was the worst one in my opinion. It was the least fun,” he said. “I think people are letting egos get in the way of their good judgement. They’re worried about their owned advancement, they’re worried about their own philosophy.”

Still, Latvala pointed to some achievements during the 2017 Session, including a legislation backed by Senate President Joe Negron to build additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, which will help alleviate discharges into the Calooshatchee River. He also touted money for beach renourishment projects and pay raises for state workers, both of which were personal priorities during the 2017 Legislative Session.

And Latvala said he was among those members who were concerned with the way the Session ended, with several big bills being negotiated behind the scenes.

“I hope we learned our lesson,” he said. “I think the Senate is not doing thing that way next year, people expect us to debate things on merit.”

 

Pinellas GOP lawmakers ‘have no respect for open government,’ Times editor says

A top editor at the Tampa Bay Times fired back Wednesday after Pinellas legislators slammed the paper for calling them “Disciples of Darkness” because of transparency-related and public records measures passed this year.

“I understand why they are not happy,” Tim Nickens, the Times editor of editorials, wrote in an email. “They have no respect for open government, and Florida voters have strongly supported open government for decades. They also do not like it when they are held accountable for their own voting records.’’

A recent editorial criticized twelve Tampa Bay-area Republican House members for voting this year “to keep more public records secret and allow public officials to discuss the public’s business in private.”

“They all received D’s in a legislative scorecard on open government produced by the Florida Society of News Editors,” the editorial said. “Even those low grades are generous, because Florida’s government-in-the-sunshine laws would have been gutted if all of the terrible bills they voted for would have become law.”

On The Times’ dishonor roll are House members Ralph Massullo of Lecanto, Chris Latvala of Clearwater, Jamie Grant of Tampa, Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill, Larry Ahern of Seminole, Dan Raulerson of Plant City, Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor, Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, Jackie Toledo of Tampa, Ross Spano of Dover, Amber Mariano of Hudson, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes.

The Times editorial focused on the House members because the Senate did not consider bills that would have allowed two public officials to meet in secret and would have closed searches for university and college presidents from public view.

The paper also has editorialized in praise of seven Bay area House members back in May for voting against a bill (HB 843) that would have allowed two members of any school board, county commission or city council to meet in secret to discuss public business without any public notice or record of what was said.

“That is a rare win for transparency and accountability in Tallahassee, and voters should check the scorecard,” read that editorial, which featured the photos of those lawmakers in the print edition.

“So it cuts both ways,” Nickens said.

But, at the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce’s legislative breakfast at Ruth Eckerd Hall, a disgusted Sen. Jack Latvala inveighed against the Times before an audience of several hundred.

“We wonder why there’s such nastiness in politics?” asked Sen. Latvala, who got a ‘D’ from FSNE. “We wonder why people have the attitude about politics, whether it’s national or whatever? It’s headlines and editorial like that.”

Latvala said his grade was based on just two votes, one of which was to protect murder witnesses’ identities from being publicly disclosed. “If I had to vote on that 100 more times, I’d vote yes 100 more times,” he said.

His son, state Rep. Chris Latvala, also deadpanned: “I will say something about the Tampa Bay Times. They have a very fine sports section,” giving a shout-out to the work of Tom Jones and Marc Topkin, before getting deadly serious.

“In the last couple of years they’ve called us immoral, and now, twice, they’ve insinuated we’re going to hell over policy positions,” the younger Latvala said.

Referring to the tensions in the body politic that saw the attempted assassination of Louisiana GOP Congressman Steve Scalise earlier this month, he said the Times editorial was “the height of hypocrisy.”

Sprowls said the “hyperbolic nature” of the piece “raised the toxicity level of politics,” and said that one of the bills he supported that got a poor rating from FSNE was the vote that Jack Latvala referred to regarding witnesses to a murder.

He said that the bill came to him in the House Judiciary Committee from Ranking Democratic Member Cynthia Stafford, an African-American from Miami.

She had told Sprowls, a former prosecutor, there are people in her community who are reluctant to go to the police and share knowledge of a crime “because they’re scared we’ve got robust Sunshine Laws that allow someone to get somebody’s home address—where they live—and go knock on their door and intimidate them as a witness.

“So the fact that anybody trying to be intellectually honest would say that is in any way a bad vote really shows the level of disconnect of that editorial article and reality,” Sprowls added.

Regarding that bill, the Times editorial said, “Keeping the names of murder witnesses out of public records will not make those witnesses safer, and there is no evidence of the need for expanded exemptions for public employees.”

Richard Corcoran’s agenda and style get bashed (and sometimes praised) by panel of Pinellas lawmakers

He wasn’t on the dais, but Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s policies and public comments were front-and-center when a panel of Pinellas lawmakers spoke Wednesday in Clearwater about the recently concluded legislative session.

Dubbed “the most interesting man in Tallahassee” in a recent Miami Herald profile, the 52-year-old Land O’Lakes Republican came into leadership last year with a firm and aggressive agenda, and achieved some major accomplishments in state government. And with a potential gubernatorial candidacy in the offing, opinions regarding his policies and legislative style were not in short supply from his fellow Republicans.

No one has been more critical of Corcoran’s tenure than the man who may be competing against him next year for the GOP nomination: Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala, who lashed out at Corcoran’s recent comments that state legislators are more responsive to Floridians than local governments.

“I think it’s probably one of the most ridiculous things that has come out of his mouth,” Latvala said to laughter and applause from the business-friendly crowd which gathered for French toast and sausage at Ruth Eckerd Hall. “And I’ve heard a lot of ridiculous things come out of his mouth.”

The event was sponsored by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and moderated by FloridaPolitics/SaintPetersBlog publisher Peter Schorsch.

Latvala went on to say that the people who run for local office generally raise money from the people that they will ultimately represent on a city council or county commission. Not true in Tallahassee, he said, where most lawmakers contributions come via lobbyists.

“A lot of our legislators – particularly our newer ones – have the attitude that somehow or another they know more than the same folks who elected them at the local level,” Latvala continued. “I’ve never had that attitude, and I never will.”

When reached for comment later in the day, Corcoran responded by saying that “our point was based on the beliefs of our founding fathers.”

“Every branch of government should stay in their constitutionally authorized lane,” Corcoran said..”When local governments try to ban our citizens from using Uber; raise taxes on its citizens every single year; force small businesses to pay an unsustainable minimum wage; strip our citizens of their 2nd Amendment rights, and lobby the legislature to try and stop them from giving homeowners a property tax cut, then they are out of their lane and, more importantly, completely out of touch with the will of the people.”

Corcoran’s determination to eliminate state funding for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida, and a host of other economic incentive programs, including those targeting professional sports teams and the entertainment industry, created a virtual civil war amongst Florida Republicans in the first half of 2017. Ultimately, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida retained a substantial amount of funding, though EFI lost the bulk of its money for job incentives.

That proposal resulted in an intense ideological battle between Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott, who spent weeks traveling to the districts of House Republicans who supported the plan to defund the agencies.

“Unfortunately, the Speaker made a lot of people vote for that bill before he changed his mind and made his deal and then we had an about face and the end result was a decent bill,” said Latvala. “A lot of young House members were made to march the plank in their communities … just because of this ideological proposal from the House Speaker.”

Sitting right next to Latvala on the dais at the event was Seminole’s Larry Ahern, who was one of those House Republicans who supported Corcoran’s push to defundthose state agencies.

“No more does one corporation get all the benefits,” said Ahern of the final product. “Now it will be a better package for job training and creation throughout the state.”

South Pasadena Republican House member Kathleen Peters said she refused to “walk that plank,” and said she was quite vocal about not supporting it, before getting in her own dig at Corcoran.

“When I look at good leadership, I look at leaders who are not divisive, leaders who can see a problem and bring all the stakeholders together and come up with a good solution,” Peters said. “And that’s not what happened here in the beginning.”

Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls supported the controversial legislation.

“When the Quick Action Closing Fund, paid for by tax dollars, says to an out of state company like Wa-Wa we’re going to give you millions of dollars in taxpayer money to come and compete with homegrown Florida businesses, I’m offended by that,” he said. “We all should be.”

St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton said that Corcoran crashed a House Democratic meeting one Wednesday to persuade some of the members to his cause to get rid of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“He said I need you to stand with me,” Newton said in recounting that meeting. “That tells you right away that he didn’t have every Republican delegation in lockstep.”

Ultimately, 20 Democrats did support Corcoran on that vote.

Another controversial bill that Scott recently signed was House bill 7069, the education bill that includes the “schools of hope” plan for charter schools that was another pet project of Corcoran’s. The bill does many things, including add measures that force school districts to share construction money with charter schools and that create financial incentives for new charters to open and compete with low-performing public schools.

The bill was also a passion project of sorts for Chris Latvala, who spoke for so long about how important the legislation was that he was ultimately cut off by Schorsch.

Newton, like every Democrat in the Legislature, vehemently disagreed with the education bill.

“If you think that you’re going to be able to spend that amount of money on a charter school because they had some success somewhere else without bringing the people that’s providing that success and a government structure to the areas where you’re trying to implement it, it’s never going to work,” Newton said.

And speaking of education, the issue of USF being stripped of “preeminent” status in an education conforming bill near the end of session still rankles alumni and friends of the university. One anonymous audience member blasted Sprowls (scheduled to become Speaker of the House in a few years) on how could he let such a thing happen, or be so out of the loop as to not know it was about to happen.

While other members criticized the process, Jack Latvala said that USF officials were being too negative about how they fared overall this year.

“USF leadership is really good at the doom and gloom and highlighting the negatives, but what they haven’t told anybody was that USF got $42 million in new, additional operating money this year, as apart of the Senate’s various program to supplement higher education,” he said.”So it was one problem, but they got a lot of new money.”

The lawmakers were all asked who they believe their respective gubernatorial nominee will be next year. With many of the Republicans being loyal to Latvala, they opted not to weigh in, since he has not declared whether or not he’ll be a candidate.

Well, not everybody played possum. Ahern extolled the virtues of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who, as of today, remains the only major Republican to have entered the race.

 

Joe Henderson: Jack Latvala sounds like a candidate for Governor, even though he hasn’t announced

State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater keeps saying he’ll decide in a few weeks whether he is running for the Republican nomination for Governor, but he sounds like a candidate right now.

He is making himself available for interviews (always a good sign) and speaking engagements around the state. More importantly, he actually is saying things that are newsworthy and sound suspiciously like common sense.

Take this quote, for example, given over the weekend to WFOR-CBS 4’s Jim DeFede on “Facing South Florida.”

When asked if he would make a better governor than current GOP front-runner Adam Putnam, Latvala responded: “Oh, absolutely.”

Then he dropped this into the conversation.

“I’m an old-fashioned Republican from the standpoint that I think government ought to stay out of our lives – and that includes our personal lives,” he said. “Some people think that makes me a moderate. Let them think what they want.”

Well, well!

Let’s pick at that nugget a bit, shall we?

In addition to being the Senate budget chairman, Latvala sponsored a bill during the Legislative Session that would have banned housing discrimination for “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The bill died in committee, but give Latvala credit for trying.

Under the mask of conservative values, some Republicans love nothing better than to tell people different from them how to live their lives. Latvala’s quote could be part of his game plan to stand in contrast to other GOP candidates.

For instance, Putnam, the state Agriculture Commissioner and presumed Republican front-runner, was criticized by LGBT groups when his statement on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre had no reference to fact that many of the 49 people killed and 58 wounded that night were gay.

Why is that a big deal? Gays were clearly the target of the attack by killer Omar Mateen.

That promoted Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, to say of Putnam, “We hope he does that, and we hope any candidate running for office that invokes the name of Pulse has the courage to name the victims and make clear their stance, not in platitudes, but in real promises.”

The field of candidates in both parties will be crowded, which puts fund-raising and name recognition at a premium. If Latvala makes the leap, he will have a lot of catching up to do.

Putnam has raised more than $12 million, including $1 million in May. If House Speaker Richard Corcoran jumps in, he could have the backing of the Koch Brothers and all the clout that brings.

Latvala has positioned himself as a problem-solver, interested in the environment, with extensive business experience. He has tried to label Putnam as a career politician.

But the biggest thing he might going is trying to steer Republicans back to their roots — less regulation, more freedom everywhere, for everybody. It’s a bold gambit for a party that has moved steadily toward regulating any lifestyle but the one it favors. Whether that works in a potential campaign remains to be seen, but it sure is refreshing to hear.

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