If there’s one mammal who has done more to bring dollars to north Pinellas’ economy than Winter the Dolphin, it’s state Senator Jack Latvala. So it’s perhaps fitting that the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee has picked the Clearwater Marine Aquarium – home to Winter and friends – to formally announce his political plans for 2018.
It’s widely expected that Latvala, who is term-limited from running again for the Senate, will join the race to be Florida’s next governor. In July, he told the family and friends who gathered at his annual Maine confab that he would reveal his intentions on August 16.
Thursday morning he supplied more details about what will happen that day, telling Florida Politics that his announcement will be at 1 p.m. at the aquarium.
The aquarium has benefitted substantially from Latvala’s role in writing past and current state budgets. When he was chairman of a Senate committee overseeing economic development, Latvala saw to it that the aquarium received million-dollar appropriations.
In 2003, Latvala and state Rep. Ed Hooper were the political forces behind an allocation of $5 million to speed production of a sequel to Dolphin Tale, the movie about Winter’s recovery after losing its tail after being caught in a crab trap.
“This is a proven project. It’s put heads in the beds in our hotels here,” Latvala told the Tampa Bay Times at the time.
One report showed that the increase in attendance at the aquarium since the Dolphin Tale movies premiered has led to a $2 billion economic boost to Pinellas County. The study found that 44,440 jobs were supported by the aquarium over a four-year period, or about 11,000 jobs a year.
Job creation will likely be at the center of Latvala’s campaign for governor, should he decide to run. While spending the summer seemingly in pursuit of attending as many chamber of commerce luncheons as possible, Latvala has bracketed his possible GOP primary opponents — Adam Putnam and, probably, Richard Corcoran – for having never signed a paycheck.
Meanwhile, Latvala continues to stock up for the long fight ahead.
Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee will report it raised $336,000 in July.
Contribution records on the committee website run through July 27 and show $255,000 raised, meaning the Clearwater Republican brought in more than $100,000 in the final days of the month.
Latvala hasn’t budged from waiting until Aug. 16 to formally announce whether he will run for governor.
“Everything is coming along according to plan,” he said.