Jack Latvala for Chief Financial Officer?

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Next week, several Republican members of the Florida Senate will gather at the summer home in Boothbay Harbor of their colleague Jack Latvala. There they will raise money for the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday and Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee on Friday.

With Latvala slated to be the next chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Appropriations, there’s no question he will be able to raise tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of dollars at both events. The question is what does Latvala have planned for all of that money in his political committee?

As it stands today, there is $2,169,340 in Latvala’s main political committee. There is another $350,000 in Latvala’s campaign committee. That puts him at north of $2.5 million cash-on-hand.

The senior senator from Pinellas enjoys high, positive name recognition in his district and faces a tomato can this November, so if he spends more than the absolute minimum on his re-election campaign, he’s wasting money.

It’s more likely Latvala will use his resources to protect some of his allies running in tough races this November. Certainly, Sen. Miguel diaz de la Portilla could use Latvala’s help in death match versus Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez. But even if Latvala spends $50,000 on his own re-election and $500,000 on four or five other races, he still will have more than $2 million in the bank. And that’s if he doesn’t raise another dollar, which will not be the case.

Come May of 2018, Latvala — likely to be one of the most impactful appropriations chairs to have ever held the gavel — should have at least $3 million in his warchest.

Latvala is term-limited from running again in 2018, so what will he do next? That’s the $64,000 question being asked in Tampa Bay and Tallahassee.

While some suggest Latvala would make an excellent (moderate) Republican governor, it’s a hard to envision a scenario where he has the horses to outrun Adam Putnam or Will Weatherford. As much as Sunburn would love to see Latvala in the Governor’s Mansion, it’s just not going to happen.

Similarly, it’s difficult to see Latvala running for some small-ball local office in Pinellas ala what Mike Fasano did in Pasco. And as long as there are Bilirakises in north Pinellas, Latvala won’t be going to Washington D.C.

So why not Latvala for Chief Financial Officer?

With Jeff Atwater term-limited from holding the Cabinet post again, the 2018 race to be the next CFO is wide-open. There won’t be a major Republican worth their elephant pajamas who does not take a look at running for the position. And now, with developer Pat Neal officially out of the race, the list of prospective candidates will only grow. Because he could have self-funded, Neal would have likely kept the field of candidates in check. But now, without Neal and his eight-figure checkbook to worry about, the price of admission to the CFO race is considerably less.

A serious candidate would need to be able to raise for the primary, say, two or three million dollars out of the gate. Know anyone who can do that?

That’s right, Jack Latvala. He can already buy a ticket to the big game and he has decades worth of IOUs left to cash in. He has an extensive history working on the insurance and regulatory issues that make up the CFO’s portfolio. And what other candidate can count on the kind of favorable treatment from the press that Latvala would receive?

Latvala will probably shoot down this speculation as soon as he’s done reading this sentence, but that doesn’t mean Latvala for CFO doesn’t make sense.

Someone should ask him about it next week in Maine.

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.