Pinellas County Republicans who gathered at a “Victory Picnic” mostly avoided talking about their candidate at the top of the ballot this November and focused instead on the importance of keeping Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate and winning local races.
“Donald Trump was not my first, second or third choice,” said state Rep. Chris Latvala about his presidential candidate preferences, “but when you put him and Hillary Clinton next to each other, it’s no contest.”
Latvala was one of more than two dozen GOP candidates who took part in the in Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee event at the Feather Sound Country Club, where the choir was eager to be preached to.
I made an (increasingly rare) appearance on the campaign trail and, quite honestly, was humbled to receive a round of applause after being introduced to the crowd by emcee Leslie Waters, the mayor of Seminole and a former state representative. It was a treat to see the longtime friends and campaign trail fixtures — people like Pam Hinds and Rachelle Warmouth — who make local political events feel more like family reunions.
I stayed for only about an hour, but was able to glean these tidbits:
— PCREC Chairman Nick DiCeglie, his beautiful family in tow, says the event raised more than $17,000 for the local party’s burgeoning coffers.
— U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who faces a primary challenge from retired General Mark Bircher, was on-point with a large campaign staff in attendance, including his effervescent wife, Laura. The race between Jolly and Bircher is shaping up like a first-round game between the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team and a preliminary opponent: it’s not a question of whether Jolly will win, it’s about the style points.
— Speaking of Jolly, the investigation into who on his campaign is responsible for placing yard signs in right-of-ways points to one suspect: Max Goodman!
— State Sen. Jeff Brandes, who has already won re-election without opposition, spoke about two causes he’s working on this election cycle: Rubio’s re-election and passing Amendment 4, the solar power and renewable energy initiative. With the measure polling near the 60 percent threshold it must exceed to make it into Florida’s constitution, Brandes is optimistic voters will approve it.
— State Rep. Chris Sprowls may be rapidly growing into his role as a statewide leader (he’s slated to be Speaker of the House beginning in 2021-22), but he wasn’t too busy to carry his family’s diaper bag. Good man!
— Rep. Latvala has a new addition to his campaign team: a hard part in his hair that makes him look way too mature for my liking.
— Former state Rep. Ed Hooper looks tanned and rested and ready to run for the state Senate seat Jack Latvala must give up in 2018 due to term limits.
— In the competitive primary for Pinellas County Property Appraiser, Mike Twitty lapped former state Rep. Jim Frishe in the straw poll voting, 68 to 32.