Latvala sees quick end to leadership fight, others unsure

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One of the key figures in the convoluted leadership scramble now roiling the Senate GOP said Wednesday he expected the situation to be resolved soon, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican whose upstart bid for the chamber’s top position sparked the palace intrigue in recent days, said talks are still going on over how to unwind what has been an increasingly complex showdown.

“Everybody wants to see some finality to the situation and I think finality will come in the next day or so,” Latvala said in a brief interview Wednesday.

Others were less certain. Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican who is also trying to capture the Senate presidency at some point in the next few years, suggested that power struggle that burst into the open this week could continue for months.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “We’ve got a summer to go through, we’ve got elections, we’ve got all that to go through.”

Indeed, summer primaries and the final elections in November could affect the composition of the Senate — and the GOP majority itself. Intraparty nomination battles could become de facto proxy wars between different factions trying to stake their claims on the future of the chamber.

Blogs were abuzz Tuesday about the possibility that Thrasher and Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, were trying to wrest away the Senate presidency from Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who until now has been the favorite for clinching the position after the 2014 elections.

But Gardiner has faced an increasingly tenacious challenge from Latvala, who re-entered the Senate in 2010 and has made no secret of his desire to take over the top spot. Thrasher and Negron have also long been discussed as possible Senate presidents in later years.

By the time Wednesday’s machinations were winding down, even Senate President-designate Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, would only note that he is the GOP caucus’ current choice for the job.

“I will be a candidate,” Gaetz said in his most definitive statement about whether his looming presidency was secure.

Gaetz said he had largely stayed out of the infighting, save for a brief get-together with Gardiner, Thrasher and Negron.

“I had one meeting, probably lasted 15 minutes,” he said. “I asked to be there.”

Gaetz would not discuss what was said in detail.

Latvala played down rumors that he and Gardiner had struck a deal that would install one of them as president, likely in 2014, and the other as the leader for the following term. But he did project confidence that the two were in the best position to succeed Gaetz.

“Senator Gardiner and I between us have about 75 percent of the pledges for president, and I don’t see anything changing that,” he said.

One of them was not Thrasher, who through Tuesday had said he was supporting Gardiner — but willing to run if Gardiner couldn’t clinch the presidency. By Wednesday, that had changed.

“If I’m running, I’m supporting myself,” Thrasher said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.