Jack Latvala Archives - Page 6 of 56 - Florida Politics

Ed Hooper nabs Mike Fasano endorsement for SD 16

Ed Hooper, in his bid to return to Tallahassee, picked up a major endorsement Wednesday from Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano.

Fasano, a former Republican state lawmaker, has been a longtime political force in West Pasco County. Hooper, who served in the House from 2006 to 2014, is running in Senate District 16, covering parts of Pinellas and Pasco counties.

“I know Ed Hooper to be an honest and thoughtful person who cared about how laws effect the people he represents,” Fasano said in a statement. “Hooper has my full support and endorsement for State Senate.”

Hooper seeks to succeed Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala in SD 16. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, is term-limited from the Senate and now running for Florida governor.

Born in North Carolina, Hooper moved to Clearwater in 1972 and studied fire science and emergency medicine at St. Petersburg College. After 24 years with the Clearwater Fire Department, Hooper was elected to the Clearwater City Council and later served eight years in the Florida House, before retiring in 2014 due to term-limits.

Hooper also brings an extensive civic involvement, including stints on Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Pinellas, and the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee.

In endorsing Hooper, Fasano joins State Sens. Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes and Dana Young, as well as Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Richard Corcoran is the biggest threat in the Governor’s race … and he’s not even running

A new Florida Chamber of Commerce poll released this week gives Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam a significant early lead in the 2018 race for governor.

This comes as little surprise, especially since some view the Chamber as one of Putnam’s biggest cheerleaders.

However, the survey does have one shocking element. Richard Corcoran scored dead last in the Chamber-backed poll.

This poor showing begs a slightly closer look at polling and why the Land O’Lakes Republican might just be poised to be the biggest threat to Putnam.

In the GOP primary, Putnam gets 26 percent, with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis at 9 points and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater with 2 percent. Corcoran manages only a single point.

As Speaker of the Florida House and a prominent figure in state politics, that Corcoran would receive such sparse polling numbers raises more than a few questions.

First, some background. According to state financial reports, political committees tied to the Chamber gave $785,000 to Putnam’s campaign in 2017 alone, with nearly half of that coming after he officially declared his candidacy.

In contrast, Watchdog PAC, the committee led by Corcoran, has received no Chamber money.

Why is that? One possible explanation is, during Session, Corcoran publicly struck out strongly against a Chamber priority – the state funding for VISIT FLORIDA. That certainly did not inspire the Chamber to open its checkbook.

What also makes this lack of financial support intriguing is that only last year, the Chamber scored Corcoran as an A-rated, pro-business legislator at 97 percent.

So the Chamber loves how Corcoran votes, just not enough to give him any money.

Now, compare this week’s Chamber survey to a similar poll taken three weeks earlier by Florida Atlantic University — a neutral third-party.

Both polls include the same four major Republican Party candidates (as well prospective candidates) for governor: Putnam, Corcoran, DeSantis and Latvala.

Both polls offer similarities: Putnam’s share is 1 point apart in the polls (26 versus 27 percent). DeSantis’ is same in both polls (9 percent). Latvala is also the same at 2 percent.

Also, notable in the Chamber polling is the margin of error, which typically changes with the number of respondents for primaries (only 256 Republicans surveyed) versus the number of respondents for general elections (615 surveyed). For the general, both surveys offer a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points, although the FAU margin of error — when broken down to Democratic or Republican primary only — increases to +/- 6.5 points. (The FAU poll does point out those changes as the sample size decreases.)

Nevertheless, the one key difference between the two polls is Corcoran.

Corcoran drops from 10 percent (solidly in second place) in the FAU survey to a single point (last) in the Chamber poll.

But why all the skepticism, you may ask. The Speaker is emerging as everyone’s favorite target in the governor’s race. And he’s not even running.

While on the stump, in media and digitally, Democrats have attacked Corcoran with alarming regularityGwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and even Philip Levine (who has been flirting with, but not committed to, a run for governor). Putnam and Latvala have also been consistent in their attacks.

Could it be that Corcoran is the most dangerous candidate to all of the above?

This summer, the Speaker had been quickly raising money ($4 million in 100 days) as well as assembling a top-notch political team (including admen and the winning pollster for President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott). The Speaker also has a strong conservative record to lean on, which would make a compelling case in a Republican primary.

In addition, all polls show the race as wide-open – with some giving Corcoran double digits (despite not yet being an official candidate). That this is happening so early in the race is noteworthy.

Compare that to DeSantis, whose entire potential campaign now rests on a series of appearances on FOX News.

What’s more, other than two significant donors, DeSantis’ aligned committee raised little money (only $1M after the transfer from his federal PC) in nearly six months of its existence. That suggests a lack of infrastructure.

And with waning approval ratings for both Congress and Trump, a sitting congressman in the gubernatorial race is not necessarily setting the world on fire, at least among those in the state Republican Party.

All things considered, as Corcoran builds momentum and is positioned to become Putnam’s most practical challenger, why would the Chamber bother putting a thumb on the scales?

Perhaps not, but the Chamber would have 785,000 reasons to do so if they did.

John Morgan brings his “talking tour” to St. Pete

Saying it was good to be back in “Charlie Crist country,” Orlando attorney/entrepreneur/celebrity John Morgan made an entertaining appearance at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

There, he discussed what he says is the very real possibility that he will pull the trigger next year and run for the Democratic nomination for governor.

As salty as ever, Morgan said he was absolutely not on a “listening tour,” as some candidates describe the early months of a potential candidacy, deriding that concept as “so much BS.”

“I’m on a talking tour,” he told the audience who assembled at the St. Pete Yacht Club. “I’m going to tell you everything I think. I may say two or things today that disqualify me, and that’s OK.”

The 61-year-old Lexington, Kentucky native has said previously that he won’t make a final decision on his political future until next spring, and with his high name recognition thanks to the ubiquitous “Morgan and Morgan” television ads that constantly air across the state of Florida and a personal banking fortune estimated at more than $100 million, it certainly makes sense.

Rick Scott, after all, didn’t get into the gubernatorial race in 2010 until the spring, and the rest is Florida political history.

A Florida Chamber of Commerce poll released Wednesday shows Morgan currently to be the most popular Democrat in the field, leading former Congresswoman Gwen Graham by eight percentage points, 23 percent-15 percent.

However, 44 percent have yet to make up their mind for the Democratic primary, which won’t take place until slightly less than 11 months from now.

Referring to the tragedy at the North Hollywood assisted living facility which lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma, causing 10 seniors to perish due to excessive heat, Morgan blasted “tort reform” efforts by the state Legislature, where lawsuits at such facilities are capped at $250,000.

Morgan—the father of 2016’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment—said it’s inevitable that recreational pot will become legal from sea to shining sea in the future. The latest policy proposal that he’s working to get on the 2020 ballot would be a $14 hourly ‘living wage’ in Florida.

He’s also passionate about getting the right of nonviolent ex-felons to get their rights restored. When asked by a woman during the Q&A portion of the meeting why not even those who commit violent felonies pay their debt to society, Morgan said politics was about the art of compromise, and extending that proposal to include violent offenders will never pass in Florida.

He maintained that pragmatic stance when talking about guns, an incendiary issue between gun control advocates and most of the GOP-led Legislature in Florida, which continues to press for more unfettered access to guns, including on college campuses and airports (though to no avail in recent years).

“I’m not a gun guy,” he declared. “I don’t care about guns. Just don’t let crazy people have them.”

As part of his platform for criminal justice reform he derides private prisons, saying that their business model requires that they be filled up, so the companies that own them can make money.

He called public school teachers “heroes,” and blasted what he said was the Legislature’s war on public education. Morgan said the results from the charter school experiment were “terrible” and that it allowed the rich to prosper at the public’s expense.

Speaking of the rich, Morgan called himself the “ultimate capitalist” but also a “compassionate capitalist.” He said he believed in a separation of church and state, but said he didn’t believe that people could separate themselves from their beliefs.

“I believe that the God that I pray to lives not up there but in you and in you and in you. I believe that when I see somebody’s hungry, or begging, or without shelter, I’m not looking at a deadbeat, I’m looking at God, and that’s the only way that I can live and love God, to love people and love God.”

Morgan mused about some of the other candidates who have already declared their candidacies for governor. He joked that he needed Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala in the race. “I need someone bigger than me,” he said of the Clearwater Republican. “I can’t be the fat guy in the race.”

Morgan is off to his home state of Kentucky, where he’s been hired by Attorney General Andy Beshear to sue the manufacturers of opioids, an option that Florida lawmakers have yet to publicly consider.

Many political observers say that Donald Trump’s electoral victory in Florida and in the Electoral College last November is a blueprint that the politically incorrect Morgan could follow to the Governor’s Mansion. He addressed the comparison only once during his speech.

“Some people say ‘if Trump can do it, you can do it!’ ” he said, pausing dramatically. “I don’t take that as a compliment.”

Poll: Adam Putnam is front-runner in governor’s race

It’s clear that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been running a careful race for Florida governor.

And Republican voters like what they are seeing, according to a new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Putnam is obliterating the GOP primary field, says the live-dial poll of 256 Republican likely voters conducted Sept. 14 through Sept. 21. The Bartow Republican enjoys the support of 26 percent of respondents, well ahead of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, coming in second at 9 percent.

Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala (2 percent) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran (1 percent) both trail an enigmatic “someone else” (3 percent).

If there is any silver lining for the single-digit candidates, it’s that more than half of respondents (59 percent)are undecided.

Putnam offers voters the best combination of name identification and favorability of the field, the Chamber poll says.

Though his favorable rating is a relatively modest 24 percent, that is still more than twice his unfavorables (at 11 percent).

Putnam’s aggregate +13 favorable rating (and the fact that 54 percent had heard of him) bodes well, as no other candidate has a similar level of favorability or visibility.hen polled in many head-to-head contests against potential Democratic adversaries, Putnam also prevails.

When polled in many theoretical head-to-head matchups with potential Democratic adversaries, Putnam also prevails.

In a hypothetical head-to-head contest, 615 respondents (263 Democrats, 256 Republicans and 96 others), put Putnam over Gwen Graham (39 to 37 percent), John Morgan (40 to 37 percent), Andrew Gillum (40 to 33 percent), Philip Levine (40 to 32 percent), and Chris King (40 to 31 percent).

Expect Putnam to continue what he is doing, given that no Republicans are even close to him right now and his support in a general election is consistent, no matter which opponent he faces.

Florida firefighters, first responders continue lining up behind Jack Latvala

Jack Latvala is expanding his appeal as a “hero” with first responders across Florida.

On Wednesday, the Clearwater Republican announced firefighters in St. Petersburg, Coral Gables and Indian River County have added their support to his bid to become Florida governor.

“You have become a hero among firefighters,” said Indian River County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics IAFF Local 2201 President John O’Conner in an announcement of the endorsement.

“You’ve had our back every step of the way. Now we are honored to have yours,” O’Conner added, citing Latvala’s work to protect firefighter pensions, death and disability benefits, and the senator’s recent legislation on firefighter cancer disability presumption.

“Your steadfast support on public safety issues and specifically the fire service as a whole has meant so much not only to our Local, but also all of our brothers and sisters Statewide,” added Coral Gables Professional Firefighters Association IAFF Local 1210 President Michael Chickillo.

Richard E. Pauley Jr., President of the St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters IAFF Local 747, voiced his backing of Latvala in a separate letter: “We believe you will honorably serve the citizens of the State of Florida and the interests of the men and women in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services, who have made the protection of life and property their life’s work.”

Previously, firefighters in Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Boynton Beach also gave thumbs-up to Latvala’s gubernatorial bid.

Latvala, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was elected in 2010; he also served in the Senate from 1994-2002.

Chris King calls for ‘modernized’ voting systems, automatic voter registration

Declaring it is time for Florida to “modernize” it’s voting systems, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King unveiled a policy statement Tuesday calling for universal voter registration and for voters to vote anywhere in their county.

King, a Winter Park-based developer of affordable and senior housing, rolled out a seven-point voting and elections plan Tuesday to mark National Voter Registration Day during a speech at Florida State University. The address was the first of his campus college tour, which also includes stops Tuesday at the University of Florida and the University of North Florida.

His Every Florida Voter Plan include calls for the abolition of gerrymandering, restoration of certain non-violent felons’ voting rights and some proposals aimed at making voter registration and voting easier.

King is battling with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. Both of them also have expressed strong support for the restoration of voting rights, and abolition of gerrymandering. The leading Republican candidates are state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Our government should work for ordinary people, not special interests and those in power,” King stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “The first step to restore our democracy is to put that power back in the hands of the people of Florida.

“But expanding voter registration and increasing access to the polls are not enough to increase voter participation,” King added. “Past candidates and elected officials from both parties have failed to give Floridians a reason to get out and vote. This campaign will be different. It will be unafraid of fighting for a new fair and Florida-focused economy that lifts up all Floridians, and championing fresh ideas to give people a reason to stand and be counted.”

King’s voter plan includes a handful of Democratic standards adopted by most of the party’s candidates, including his Democratic primary rivals, such as restoration of rights, expansion of early voting and same-day voter registrations. It also calls for technological advances and automatic voter registration, meaning registrations of eligible voters would be automatically recorded as they sign up for any state services, unless they chose to opt out.

He proposed updating Florida’s voting infrastructure to allow universal online voter registration. He also suggested that voters should be able to vote at any polling place in their county on Election Day, just as they can currently vote at out-of-precinct polling places in early voting periods.

“Florida should end the antiquated voter registration system that hasn’t kept up with a mobile, modern society,” King’s campaign stated in the news release.

The statement said King would provide a path to the restoration of civil rights “for more than 1.6 million nonviolent offenders who have served their time, paid their debts to society, and have earned a right to be contributing members of their communities again.”

“Florida simply cannot systematically disenfranchise millions of its citizens any longer,” the release stated.

For King, the gerrymandering position comes from close to home. His father David King was the lead attorney who argued and won redistricting cases on behalf of the League of Women Voters in Florida that forced Tallahassee to redraw congressional and state senate districts. In those suits, judges found the state’s congressional and Florida Senate districts were created through gerrymandering that had been banned by the 2010 Fair Districts amendments to the Florida Constitution.

“Voters should pick their elected representatives, not the other way around,” the release stated. “For too long, Republicans in the state legislature have tried to gerrymander districts. The people of Florida deserve a leader in Tallahassee who will fight for Fair Districts during upcoming redistricting.”

Jack Latvala says he sides with Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players

After Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans opted not to stand for the national anthem in protest of Donald Trump’s election, Pinellas state Sen. Jack Latvala said he would personally boycott Bucs games until Evans apologized or was cut from the team.

He is maintaining that stance after Evans and fellow Bucs wide receiver DeSean Jackson joined many of their NFL brethren on Sunday by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The protests were in response to Trump’s comments made Friday night that NFL owners who have players “disrespecting the flag” should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”

“A year ago, long before I became a candidate for Governor I called out the Bucs receiver who knelt for the national anthem,” Latvala wrote on his Facebook page Sunday night. “This is not a new issue for me and my attitude has not changed.”

Two NFL teams – the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans – chose to protest by not even leaving their locker rooms while the national anthem was played in Nashville. The Pittsburgh Steelers did the same thing before their game in Chicago, with the exception of one player, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Latvala says he’s a fan of Villanueva.

“Thankfully we still have players like Alejandro Villanueva who stood up for our country on the battlefield and stood up for our flag today!” Latvala wrote.

The Clearwater Republican announced his candidacy for Florida governor last month, joining Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the race.

Putnam tweeted Sunday that he also agreed with the president comments about NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is strongly considering running for governor, tweeted a photo of Villanueva showing his support for standing for the anthem. “This is what a hero looks like,” Corcoran wrote.

After Latvala criticized Evans last year, the receiver backed down, saying that he would no longer sit during the anthem. Evans was criticized by fans not only for refusing to stand for the anthem in protest of Trump’s election but for also admitting that he didn’t actually vote in the presidential contest.

However, this time, the Bucs receiver sounds like he won’t back down.

“When the president has singled out athletes, or African-American athletes, myself and my other colleagues that took a knee just have different beliefs than him,” Evans told the Tampa Bay Times Sunday. “It was very childish on his part. It seems like he’s trying to divide us. I think this is an opportunity for me to do what I can. A lot of guys around the league did it and I understand why.”

“People are going to misconstrue and turn it to make it depict a different picture than it really is,” Evans continued. “I love the military. Like I said last year when I sat, it’s nothing against the military at all. The anthem is different for other people. People say it’s unpatriotic. But it’s unpatriotic for the president not to respect our rights.”

As was the case last year, Latvala is attracting plenty of comments on his Facebook page for his stance on the issue — pro and con.

“I don’t appreciate or support the Bucs’ stance on this issue,” wrote Cherie Anne Gaynor. “I’m finished with them and probably all NFL teams and will try not to buy any of their sponsors’ products.”

“I appreciate people who stand by their beliefs,” wrote Adam Miguel Harvey. “You’re not getting my vote but thank you for it being vocal about the argument.”

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.

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