No. 18 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Chris Latvala

LatvalaChris
'His efforts to deliver a quality education to our students and to reform the state’s child welfare system will have a lasting impact.'

Outgoing Clearwater Rep. Chris Latvala fell four spots this year on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians, dropping from No. 14 to No. 18.

The legislator’s descent comes as he prepares to leave the seat he’s held since 2014, due to term limits. Don’t be fooled though — Latvala won’t be leaving the realm of Tampa Bay politics so soon, with a Pinellas County Commission bid already in motion.

During his time in the House, the Republican lawmaker has enjoyed being a part of chamber leadership, including chairing the Education and Employment Committee. This year, he also served on the Redistricting Committee, which drafted the maps that will impact Florida’s elections for the next decade.

“During his time in the Florida House, Chris Latvala has been one of the most passionate advocates for bettering the lives of children. His efforts to deliver a quality education to our students and to reform the state’s child welfare system will have a lasting impact,” said Natalie King of RSA Consulting. “In addition to his excellent work, he is also known for honesty and loyalty. Although he is leaving the House, Rep. Latvala has a long career in public service ahead of him.”

Latvala, the son of former staple power broker Sen. Jack Latvala, has charted his own path. He has established himself as a champion for education and juvenile justice reform.

He maintains a strong friendship with House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who represents the neighboring district. Having such a powerful ally so close to home gives Latvala an advantage when pushing for local project funding.

Latvala does not shy away from appropriation requests, which often center around district programs involving child welfare, education and mental health programs. He filed a whopping 38 requests this past Session alone — most of which found their way into the Legislature-approved budget. That’s a pretty big flex of influence and a win for Latvala’s home district.

This past Session, Latvala also successfully carried legislation (HB 1099) that would prevent life insurance companies from charging higher premiums for living organ donors. Latvala partnered with Tampa Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz to clear the bill, which found unanimous support in the House and near-unanimous approval in the Senate. The bill is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

“Rep. Latvala has made his mark in the House of Representatives. What you don’t realize though is how much he has accomplished because of how he did behind the scenes and didn’t care who got the credit,” said Shawn Foster, President at Sunrise Consulting Group. “He uses his sense of humor to disarm you but rest assured he understands politics and how it works better than most people I know.”

As he concludes his time in the state House, he has already started a new venture: running for Pinellas County Commission.

Although he hasn’t yet decided if he’ll run this year or in the 2024 cycle — or even which seat he’ll run for — he’s already set up a campaign account to start fundraising.

The legislator has already raised $100,000 for his Pinellas County Commission campaign. However, he has garnered criticism from some sitting Commissioners over a bill cleared by the Legislature that would require single-member Pinellas County Commissioners elected in 2020 to run again in 2022.

While Latvala was not involved in crafting the bill, Commissioners criticized the legislator for his support of the legislation, since one district that would call for re-election is a seat he is considering running for.

Whether Latvala chooses to run this year or two years from now, it’s clear he has his sights set on remaining an influential conservative voice in Tampa Bay.

Joe Henderson’s take: I wish he hadn’t co-sponsored the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in the House, but helping secure funding for renovations at Ruth Eckerd Hall was a good move. When his run for the Pinellas County Commission happens, he will probably remind voters about that.

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As for methodology, we define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

We define a politician as being in office or running for office.

Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician one point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.

Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2022 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, Ricky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Evan Donovan of WFLA, Joe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Joe Henderson, Todd Josko of Ballard Partners, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, Patrick Manteiga, publisher of LaGaceta, Seth McKeel of The Southern Group, Jennifer Motsinger, EVP of Tampa Bay Builders Association, Mitch Perry of Charter News, Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]



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