Clearwater Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala will not face opposition from either a Republican or a Democrat this fall in Senate District 16, with only write-in candidate Katherine Perkins standing in the way of his being re-elected.
As the qualifying period came to a close Friday, no Democrat rose up to challenge the Pinellas County power broker, who lost out in a battle for the Senate presidency last year to Palm City Republican Joe Negron.
In exchange for a final detente with Negron, Latvala got a coveted consolation prize: the Appropriations Committee chairmanship, making him arguably the most important player in the budget process, given his extensive experience and mastery of the rules.
During the 2016 Legislative Session, Latvala chaired the Senate budget panel on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development and co-chaired the overall committee that oversees the spending of related dollars.
A staple of the Florida Senate across much of the last three decades, Latvala is known as a consummate dealmaker who “would rather get half of what I want that none of it,” as he once said — and knows how to negotiate for it.
A Tampa Bay Times story about the 2015 Legislative Session, for instance, portrayed the “gruff and tough” Latvala thusly:
“The veteran Republican lawmaker from Clearwater is having another Latvala-esque legislative session, relishing his role on a wide range of issues, from housing to beer to state troopers to Florida’s space program. He’s where the action is.”
Another write-in candidate, Michael Ryan, had been listed on the Division of Elections website, but Ryan did not qualify on Friday.
The 64-year-old Latvala initially served in the Florida Legislature from 1994-2002, and came back to the Senate in 2010.