In the Florida Legislature, John Legg is one of the good guys.
A protege of populist Mike Fasano, Legg is a dedicated, policy-driven lawmaker with years of legislative experience that run counter to his boyish looks.
That said, Legg has been somewhat of an enigma lately, although it’s understandable why he’s been acting the way he has.
After being drawn into the new Senate District 10, Legg first told insiders that he would not run against fellow Republican Wilton Simpson, who is slated to become Senate President in 2020. Next, Legg flip-flopped, telling POLITICO Florida that he would “aggressively” run in the new district.
Then, as FloridaPolitics.com first reported, a deal to avoid a Legg vs. Simpson showdown was struck. Legs would not run in 2016 against Simpson, while Senate leadership will back his bid to succeed Jack Latvala in his north Pinellas seat.
Legg, who has about as much attachment to Pinellas County as the Tampa Bay Rays want to have, will run in 2018 for the seat held by Latvala, the most Pinellas-y of elected officials since Chuck Rainey.
No offense to the affable Legg, but he may want to think twice about his next move. Pinellas County, perhaps the most provincial of Florida’s 67 counties, does not take kindly to political outsiders.
Just ask Alex Sink.
No matter how many Tallahassee Republicans line up behind Legg, his carpetbagging will likely not go over without a fight.
Latvala’s son, Chris, has said he does not want to run for the Senate. But we do hear Chris’ mentor, former state Rep. and Clearwater City Commissioner Ed Hooper is eyeing the seat. He’s probably the first of many bold-lettered names who will dip their toes in the waters (Brian Aungst? Neil Brickfield? Nick DiCeglie? Lauralee Westine?)
And what about the Democrats? On paper, North Pinellas is a Republican seat, but it’s also a moderate one. Certainly there’s a homegrown Democrat who could give Legg a run for his money.
Even one of Legg’s most ardent supporters, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, agrees with the assessment that Pinellas County voters will never support a candidate from Pasco.
“Pinellas will never give Pasco that seat,” said Fasano. “This is what happens when our Florida legislators fail to do their job, Pasco pays the consequences.”
All of this is not to say Legg would not be an effective representative for Pinellas County. But from where I sit, right smack in the heart of Pinellas County, Legg looks like an outsider who just lost a game of musical chairs.