Jack Latvala should be pissed at his friends

in Peter by

In these troubled times, Jack Latvala‘s word is about as solid as it gets. It’s not “my word as a Biden,” but it’s certainly stronger than “My word, it’s stronger than oak,” from the movie Jerry Maguire. So I believe him when he tells me that he doesn’t know who leaked to the Tampa Bay Times‘ Steve Bousquet details of an informal bull session about him possibly running for Florida governor in 2018.

Among the suspects: Curt KiserSandy MorthamDale Patchett and Ron Richmond, as well as Joel and Diana PadgettSandy Safely and lobbyists Jennifer Green and Missy Timmins.

Were I Latvala, I’d be pissed.

Because the timing of this Latvala-for-governor trial balloon could not have been floated at a worse time.

That Latvala wants to occupy the Governor’s Mansion comes as no surprise to those of whom know of his  love for the state of Florida and his desire to continue to serve the public.

The plan, at least the plan I knew about, was for Latvala to wait until after the 2017 Legislative Session before actively discussing/exploring a run for governor. This way, not everything Latvala does during the annual lawmaking session is viewed through the prism of his ambitions.

Yesterday, Latvala was just, “Jack Latvala, the Republican state Senator from Pinellas County.”

Today, Latvala is “Jack Latvala, the Republican state Senator who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018.”

Yesterday, Latvala was the Chairman of the all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Today, Latvala is a rival of Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham and Richard Corcoran and Phil Levine.

Yesterday, Latvala could walk around however he wanted.

Today, Latvala must prepare for a marathon he may not even want to run.

Going forward, everything Latvala does — and he does a lot in politics he doesn’t exactly want light shined upon — comes under new and intense scrutiny.

If Latvala files a bill to appropriate money to, say, a community center in Palm Beach County, no matter how worthwhile the project may be, it will be viewed as chessboarding for 2018.

Were I Latvala, I’d be pissed.

Even the day the Bousquet story ran was not good for Latvala. His waters-testing coincided with a speech by John Morgan at Tallahassee’s Tiger Bay club, so Latvala had to split the press coverage with the Orlando trial lawyer (see, for example, this News Service of Florida story about how Latvala shared the day with Morgan.)

Here’s another complication for Latvala this roll-out now presents: every dollar he raises for his political committee should now, rightly or wrongly, be viewed as a donation to his statewide run. That’s obvious, right? What’s not so obvious is that some will now view these donations as a sign that you’re not with Putnam or Corcoran.

This Bousquet roll-out just put many lobbyists and interest groups — one leg of Latvala’s base — in a difficult position. Of course, they have to contribute to the Senate’s chief budget writer. But don’t think for one second Justin Hollis (Putnam’s man) or James Blair (Corcoran’s right hand) won’t be keeping a list of who ponies up.

On this week’s edition of The Usual Suspects, the public affairs show airing in north Florida, I suggest that during the upcoming Legislative Session Latvala could be the “peacemaker” between Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and Corcoran. 

The triumvirate running state government is getting along as well as Marc Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian did. Enter Latvala, the ultimate political veteran who is philosophically aligned with Scott, is loyal to Negron’s Senate, and capable of going head-to-head with Corcoran. When the 2017 Session falls apart, as it appears headed to do, it could be Latvala who brokers the grand bargain.

That’s the kind of legacy Latvala wants to burnish.

But how difficult will this be to accomplish now that he’s just another guy with a pocket full of bumper stickers?

Were I Latvala, I’d be pissed.

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.