The final stop on Charlie Crist’s 2014 book tour in support of his memoir was at Haslam’s in downtown St. Petersburg. By this time, Crist had already declared he was running for governor, so the event had a barnstorming feel to it as Crist’s family and many hometown friends were there to greet him.
Also in the crowd that day was Republican lawmaker Jack Latvala, who served with Crist in the state Senate. Throughout Crist’s tour, the Florida GOP had dispatched surrogates to rebut any positive press Crist received from the book’s release. It was smart bracketing of Crist, who was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in earned media while technically a candidate.
“We have ruined every TV package they thought they were going to have to themselves,” Susan Hepworth, a spokeswoman for the RPOF, said at the time to Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. “Can’t tell you how many TV stations we’ve called to let them know we’d have a response and they didn’t know anything about Charlie being in town.”
That Latvala was the surrogate who would greet Crist in St. Pete was a surprise to Charlie. In fact, Crist initially thought Latvala was there as a way to show off-the-grid support for his former colleague. When Crist learned that Latvala was there to dog him, the otherwise upbeat Crist became visibly disappointed.
Latvala, with a sh*t-eating grin not well hidden behind his beard, told me that day that he would do “everything in his power” to stop Crist, whom he considered less than a lightweight. I replied that I did not doubt his power, but he would regret his decision to so forcefully support Rick Scott over Crist.
Fifteen months later, that warning to Latvala has proven to be prescient.
On Tuesday, after Gov. Scott slashed more than $461 million in projects ranging from pay raises for the state’s forest firefighters to money used to hand out orange juice to visitors to the state’s welcome centers, Latvala spoke with reporters and took to social media to complain about Scott’s vetoes.
“The governor is not being well served by these kinds from Louisiana,” Latvala told the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau. “I don’t recall a Governor’s Office as unresponsive as that one is. They’ve got him totally isolated. You can’t have a meeting without Melissa sitting there. She totally controls the agenda but what are her credentials to do that? She won a campaign.”
“The advice is dead wrong,” he said. “There are so many inconsistencies in the ways those things are applied. They don’t even know what he asked for before.”
According to Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald, Latvala believes Scott’s staff is “in campaign mode all the time.”
“Some times you have to be in a governing mode. That’s what Charlie Crist’s problem was. The campaign is over and you have to start governing.”
Still huffing and puffing over seeing so many of his projects axed by his ally, Latvala made his point quite clear via Twitter: “13 sessions in the Florida Senate. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
To all of this I say: Cry me a river, Senator Latvala.
Latvala knew better than most the kind of operator Rick Scott is and he’s done nothing but enable him.
Where was Latvala when those “kids from Louisiana” ran off the well-respected chief of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement?
Where was Latvala when those “kids from Louisiana” tried to pull a power play to force out the heads of the Office of Financial Regulation and Office of Insurance Regulation?
Latvala was nowhere to be heard from. Just like any appeaser would be.
Latvala was suppose to be Scott’s guy, so much so that House leaders are now regretting their decision to horse trade with Latvala because it was done under the false pretense that Latvala could protect their projects from Scott’s veto pen.
That last point is also making some of Latvala’s allies question that if he can’t protect their projects from Scott, how will he protect them as Senate president?
(Speaking of the Senate president race, what’s the point? Andy Gardiner has put Bill Galvano in charge of Senate campaigns, so neither Latvala or Joe Negron will have the opportunity to do that part of the job. Neither one of them will get much time as Senate President Designate, which is suppose to be when they’d be at their most powerful. No, all they’ll get to be is Senate president in Rick Scott’s last two years and the counterpart to Richard Corcoran. Y’all want to be Senate president? Good luck with that.)
For a while there, it looked as if Latvala would get through the 2015 legislative session without reverting to the form he is feared for. But then, the budget conference he was overseeing melted down and Bad Latvala re-emerged. Only in a town as twisted as Tallahassee does Latvala escape criticism for calling a reporter an a*shole, as Latvala did after that chaotic conference.
Today, Latvala is back on social media asking for those impacted by Scott’s vetoes to send him numbers about the jobs to “be lost as a result of the ‘jobs’ budget vetoes.”
Boo hoo hoo, Senator Latvala. You danced with the devil and now he’s done dancing with you.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.