State Rep. Chris Latvala will seek the District 5 seat on the Pinellas County Commission. He confirmed the decision with Florida Politics Tuesday after officially qualifying for the race.
Latvala will be running to replace Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel, who will not seek re-election this year to the single-member District 5 seat. Latvala, who currently represents House District 67 in the Legislature, is not seeking re-election to the state seat because of term limits. And he said he is ready to take off on the campaign trail.
“I’m going to run a vigorous campaign and not take anything for granted, like I’ve always run any election that I’ve had,” Latvala told Florida Politics. “I’m going to try to earn the votes of the voters of District 5, you know, go door to door, stand on the street corner and go to candidate forums, do what I have to do to win, and clearly not going to take anything for granted.”
Latvala has been open about his intention to run for the Pinellas Commission since February last year. However, it was not until April that he confirmed a run for the 2022 election cycle; he was previously in-between a 2022 run or a 2024 run. It was also unclear on which seat the legislator would seek, mulling runs in District 4 to unseat incumbent Dave Eggers and later even suggesting a potential race against District 2 incumbent Pat Gerard.
Her announcement to step down came a day after Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper dismissed a case brought by the Commission that sought to overturn a new statute that puts the Commission’s single-member seats up for election in 2022.
That new election provision has been the root of tension between several Pinellas County Commissioners and Latvala, with several Commissioners expressing concern that the county was targeted by lawmakers, because the measure only affected Pinellas County.
The provision is folded into the new law (SB 524) which overhauls state election rules. It requires County Commissioners elected in single-member districts to run for re-election after decennial redistricting, including those elected in 2020. The proposal as written uniquely impacts Pinellas County, which alone meets the criteria under the legislation. It requires two Commissioners — Rene Flowers and Seel — to run for re-election after only serving two years of a four-year term.
The Commission decided to pursue legal action in a 4-2 vote on April 26 at a County Commission meeting, filing suit three days later. Seel abstained from voting on the lawsuit.
But Latvala has fought back against such accusations. The lawmaker, who is not listed as a sponsor or co-sponsor of the committee bill, previously told Florida Politics the legislation has nothing to do with a potential run. He instead contended it just puts Pinellas County in line with most other Florida counties. Latvala also emphasized that the bill was proposed last year too.
Latvala told Florida Politics that he welcomes challengers to the race, including Seel, since nothing prohibits her from running again.
“If she wants to run, then I would welcome her to the race, and we would have a spirited debate on the ideas. Anybody that wants to run is welcome to run,” Latvala said. “The whole idea of running for re-election after redistricting is not a new idea. It’s something that Hillsborough County does, it’s something that other counties do and it’s something that the entire Florida Senate does.”
He added that, if elected, he would not use public funds on lawsuits “to try to stay in office.”
“If I’m on the County Commission, I’m never going to be using public funds to try to stay in office, or to keep from having to run for office, especially after a redistricting year when some of the districts drastically changed,” he said.
In addition to running on conservative platforms, Latvala also emphasized that he hopes to establish term limits for County Commissioners.
“I plan to govern the same way that I did as a legislator. Low taxes, more freedom,” he said. “I’m gonna stand up for what I believe in. First and foremost, I believe that Pinellas County Commissioners should have term limits. And that’s going to be something that I push for if I’m lucky enough to serve.”
He is currently the only candidate filed to run for the seat. Latvala will host a campaign kick-off event on June 14.