Is Bill Galvano the de facto Senate President Designate?


Perhaps lost in the deluge of political news was a very interesting development in the race between Jack Latvala and Joe Negron to be president of the Florida Senate in 2016-2018.

While the race remains deadlocked — likely until next year’s primary elections — Latvala is preparing to toss the entire Monopoly board in the air. And where the pieces land is anyone’s guess.

In an email issued to some of his contributors, Latvala is saying aloud what the smartest people in Tallahassee have been whispering for months: that the map of the state’s Senate districts will eventually be tossed by the Florida Supreme Court.

Latvala so believes this he has taken the extraordinary step of receiving permission from the Florida Division of Elections to open up a campaign account for the 2016 cycle even though Latvala’s seat is not up until 2018.

That’s right, Latvala — perhaps the savviest operator in Florida politics — is running for a seat not officially on the ballot based on a hypothetical court ruling from a case that has yet to be heard. That’s absolutely extraordinary.

(I’m still doing the research, but the DOE’s allowance for Latvala to open up a campaign account is based on a precedent set for Pat Thomas circa 1999-2000.)

Beyond his own campaign, Latvala has to be downright giddy at the prospect of the Senate map being tossed. Why? Because it resets the entire race for Senate president, a race he’s probably losing right now, and because it likely resets the entire race in at least one way that Latvala would enjoy.

If you’ve read the Florida Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling, you know that the court does not think highly of districts jumping the waters of Tampa Bay. It ordered Congressional Districts 13 and 14 to be redrawn to eliminate any bridging between Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.

Now, it’s not exactly apples and apples to compare the challenge of the congressional map to the challenge of the state Senate map, but it’s hard to imagine the court not having something to say about Senate District 22, which like CD 14, jumps Tampa Bay to connect Hillsborough and Pinellas.

Were the court to instruct the Legislature to redraw SD 22 the way its instructing it to redraw CD 13, Republican incumbent Jeff Brandes is suddenly looking at a challenging road to re-election. Brandes has the tools to win under these circumstances — in 2010 he knocked off Democrat Bill Heller in a moderate House district — but he might opt to do other things such as run for state Chief Financial Officer or St. Petersburg mayor.

Just the prospect of his bete noire facing a difficult road to re-election is probably enough to put a Cheshire Cat smile on the face of Latvala.

But no so fast, Senator Latvala. You might have a bigger problem on your hands than Negron: your friend from Bradenton, Sen. Bill Galvano.

With Latvala and Negron deadlocked, isn’t Galvano — already slated to be Senate President in 2018-20 — the de facto Senate President designate? That’s what some in Tallahassee are suggesting. In fact, some are even suggesting that the Republican caucus bypass both Latvala and Negron and just move up Galvano’s presidency by a term.

Galvano is already the Majority Leader. As Matt Dixon of POLITICO recently reported, the current Senate President Andy Gardiner put Galvano in charge of overseeing the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raises campaign cash and coordinates Republican state Senate campaigns, heading into the 2016 cycle.

Moreover, as Gary Fineout of The Associated Press reported, Galvano just had his own political committee — Innovate Florida — hand over a $250,000 check to the Senate committee on June 24.

Galvano’s donation is “apparently aimed at stemming anxiety that donors may have that the tug-of-war between Latvala and Negron would have on the overall effort to help Senate incumbents during an upcoming presidential year,” Fineout notes.

To recap, Galvano is already the Majority Leader. He’s already in charge of Senate campaigns. He’s already helping to bankroll the Senate campaign operation.

You know what kind of senator does that? That’s right, the Senate President Designate.

Watch your back, Jack.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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