Although he abandoned his years-long battle to become Senate President in November, Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala actually jumps from ninth to second place in this year’s survey.
That’s because, in exchange for conceding his battle to Joe Negron, Latvala will become chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations in 2017, not an insignificant position in terms of power in Tallahassee.
The definition of a moderate Republican, Latvala became the first GOP state Senator to back a bill to prohibit discrimination against workers based on sexual orientation this year. In a January news conference in the Capitol, Latvala presciently realized that the legislation wasn’t likely to pass in 2016, but said he’s in it for the long haul.
“I don’t expect immediate success, but I think we’ll take measured steps and get this done before I leave this place in two years.”
Pinellas County political strategist Barry Edwards describes Latvala, the dean of all Tampa Bay area legislators, as “tenacious like a bull in a china shop, always the smartest guy in the room for strategy in the Senate.”
For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who comprised the panel that assembled it, please read here.