Rep. Chris Latvala is considering challenging Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers in 2022.
If Latvala jumped into that race, he would face Eggers in what would likely be a competitive Republican Primary between a sitting legislator and an incumbent Commissioner.
Latvala had been planning to run for the District 5 seat currently held by Karen Seel, who is not expected to seek reelection in 2024. Running for Eggers’ District 4 seat would up Latvala’s timetable by two years, facing his fellow Republican next year.
District 4 covers the northernmost parts of Pinellas County, including Palm Harbor, East Lake, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin and Safety Harbor. District 5 includes parts of Clearwater and Largo.
Latvala told Florida Politics he decided to consider challenging Eggers after learning the Commission was planning to hold its first meeting on redistricting ahead of the 2022 elections without livestreaming or televising the meeting, prompting concerns incumbents would try to draw lines favoring their own reelections.
“Ten years ago, they gerrymandered the districts pretty well based on where the commissioners lived at that time,” Latvala said, noting that is through no fault of Eggers, as he was not on the Commission at the time. “If the current Commission does what the previous one did, they’re going to look at self-preservation.”
Latvala said he doesn’t believe that is in the best interest of Pinellas County taxpayers and would likely make his decision about which seat to seek after new district lines are proposed sometime next year.
But he said challenging Eggers is on the table, and if he runs, it’s because he thinks he’d be the best person to represent the people of District 5.
“Eggers is a nice man, and I consider him a friend,” Latvala said. “The complaint with him is he doesn’t have the strongest backbone, and he capitulates to the other board members quite a bit.”
“If I were to run, it would be because I believe I would be a stronger Republican voice in north county.”
Ultimately though, Latvala said he’ll be watching the redistricting process, which happens concurrently with redistricting at the legislative and congressional level every 10 years, to ensure Commissioners were undertaking the process in the sunshine.
“If they try to do it in secret and they try to keep the public out, I may decide to speed up my thinking,” Latvala said.
The only thing he’s ruled out, he said, is running for a countywide seat, which rules out a potential challenge to Democrat Pat Gerard in the at-large District 2, or challenging Commissioner Kathleen Peters in her mid-county District 6.
“I believe that Kathleen is frankly the only conservative voice on the Commission,” Latvala said.
He said an at-large seat is off the table because he still has to focus on his duties as a Representative for House District 67, where he doesn’t leave office due to term limits until late 2022.
“Running countywide is very time-consuming, so I doubt very seriously that I would do that,” Latvala said.