Jack Latvala could announce he’s running for Governor on July 14 — but here’s why he won’t

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Lobsters and Latvalas.

For some in Florida politics (we’re looking at you Pete Dunbar, Lisa Hurley and Alan Suskey) that’s all they may ever need.

And on July 14 these folks will be in beautiful Boothbay Harbor, Maine for an old fashioned pig roast (we’re not  sure if there will be delicious Maine lobsters on the menu) and to raise money for state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s main political committee, the Florida Leadership Committee.

The gathering in Maine has become an annual tradition, where those close to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee gather for a couple of days to enjoy each other’s camaraderie — and hear Latvala’s plans for the year ahead.

In years past, those in attendance discussed the Pinellas Republican’s efforts to win the Senate presidency.

What Latvala has to say this year is especially important. He’s expected to share with his closest political friends and supporters his plans for 2018.

For months, speculation has pointed to Latvala announcing a maverick’s run for Governor. In February, Latvala told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times that he would not be making a decision about 2018 until the Legislative Session was over.

Well, Session has come and gone. There even was a Special Session. So is Latvala ready to throw his hat into the ring and challenge Adam Putnam (and probably Richard Corcoran) for the GOP nomination?

Latvala might be ready to run. And he might tell his friends and supporters on July 14 he intends to run. But don’t expect him to officially launch a campaign before September 1.

This is because Latvala is counting on public campaign finance to bolster his war chest and any money raised before that date does not count towards the figure that can be matched.

Florida’s public financing law was established in the 1980s as a way to help overcome the rising cost of running statewide, reports the Naples Daily News.

Payments are doled out under Florida law that allows gubernatorial candidates to seek public financing for their campaign. If candidates agree to limit their spending, the state matches contributions up to $250. Contributions above that amount also receive a $250 match.

Because he’s running against a candidate (Putnam) with nearly a $10 million head start, Latvala will likely rely on public financing to level the field.

And, to be frank, there’s not much Putnam can say about that.

This is because Putnam in 2014, while running for re-election as Commissioner of Agriculture, took more than $400,000 from the state in public financing even though he was running against a tomato can.

Why a fiscal conservative like Putnam who was facing no threat of being defeated would accept public campaign financing — even if he was entitled to it — is a good question.

Putnam’s spokesman told Matt Dixon that Putnam doesn’t support the taxpayer-financing policy, but it would have been “absurd” to turn down the money.

It’s unclear if Putnam will accept public financing — and the cap that comes with it — in 2018. His campaign and committee have raised a combined $13.4 million through May 31.

Although Latvala is himself a prolific fundraiser, he probably doesn’t have the capacity or time (he won’t be able to fundraise during the 2018 Legislative Session) to raise Putnam-esque money. And to be honest, if Latvala is to pull off an upset and defeat Putnam, Corcoran, etc., he will have to catch fire with the Republican grassroots to do so. A couple of million dollars on top of the $25 million limit won’t make a difference towards that.

So while much of the Florida political universe is eager to see Jack Latvala on the campaign trail, they’re probably going to have to wait a little longer.

In the meantime, enjoy the lobster rolls.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.