Jack Latvala makes bid to lead state Senate

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State Sen. Jack Latvala is mounting a behind-the-scenes campaign for the Senate presidency that could alter the direction of the state Legislature and produce benefits for the Tampa Bay area if it succeeds, reports Windy March.

Latvala recently launched a challenge to Sen. Andy Gardiner of Orlando, who is known as a hard-line conservative and has been campaigning for the post for more than a year.

A Clearwater Republican, Latvala is perceived by some as a comparative moderate mounting an insurgency against the conservatives who dominate the Legislature.

Latvala disputes those perceptions, pointing out that he’s already part of Republican Senate leadership and has a long history as a conservative Republican, earning a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union from the 2011 legislative session.

“I resist the characterization of this as some sort of maverick taking on the establishment,” he said in an interview. “I think I have as much right to be called the establishment as anyone does.”

But he acknowledges he wants to make the Senate more deliberative and collegial, with room for members’ independence, as he says it was when he first served there from 1994 to 2002.

“Members voted their consciences on what they thought was good for their communities, and it was a very independent and deliberative place,” he said. “That’s changed a lot — the old Senate was bottom-up. Power rose from the individuals to the leadership, as opposed to the other way around.”

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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.