The bitter race between Jack Latvala and Joe Negron for the Florida Senate presidency has come to an end.
“I am withdrawing from the race for Senate President,” said Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, in an exclusive to FloridaPolitics.com. “I am supporting Joe Negron for Senate President.”
The deal for Latvala?
“I will be Appropriations Chairman,” Latvala said.
Negron was magnanimous in victory.
““I look forward to working with Sen. Latvala and the entire Republican Caucus as we represent the citizens of Florida,” Negron said, confirming in his release that Latvala will serve as Aprops Chair. “The Senate is comprised of 40 strong, independent voices and I will ensure that every Senator is heard.”
An earlier deal on the table reportedly was for Latvala to be named chairman of the Rules Committee, which can be a powerful position because of its procedural influence over legislation.
That offer, however, was a nonstarter.
Negron, a Stuart Republican, said back in August that he had captured a majority of votes from the Senate’s Republican caucus to become head of his chamber for 2016-18, succeeding current President Andy Gardiner of Orlando.
The announcement seemingly put an end to a neck-and-neck and often contentious race between him and Latvala.
After Negron made his move, Gardiner agreed to hold a caucus of the Senate’s 26 Republicans.
“It’s been three-and-a-half years that Senator Negron and Senator Latvala have been at it,” Gardiner said at the time. “We are going to get to a point where there’s got to be a resolution.”
“The unification of a caucus is very, very important,” he said. “As a member, you should look at who can unify the entire caucus to come together, and a caucus meeting may allow for that discussion to happen.”
In a joint interview with reporters late Thursday, Latvala said he realized over the last week he had been too consumed with the politics of the Senate, and not enough with policymaking, which convinced him to concede.
Deciding policy is “what the people send us here to do,” said Latvala, who has served in the Senate for 13 of the last 21 years. “So I began to think about how we get the Senate back together.”
He credited state Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County Republican, with making him “think about the future of the State, instead of our own personal political futures … it’s like a load is lifted off my shoulders.”
Negron said he’s confident the GOP caucus will pull together now that the fractious presidency contest is over.
“I look at this as an intramural competition,” he said, using a high school sports example. “Sen. Latvala and I have worked it out … in a way that’s honorable and a way that the Senate can be proud of.”