The worst-kept secret in Florida politics is out: Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, filed paperwork today as a 2018 candidate for governor.
He joins Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a GOP race that could also eventually include House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast. Democrats Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King have also opened campaigns to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Latvala, who visited Palm Beach State College on Tuesday for a briefing on the opioid crisis, recently scheduled events in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City next Wednesday to announce his “future plans.”
In a brief interview Tuesday before the opioid roundtable, Latvala presented himself as a pragmatic, problem-solving figure in a primary where the other candidates are likely to run to the right.
“We need to have a governor and a Legislature that can work together,” Latvala said.
“A guy like me, I’ve been able to put people around the table up there (in Tallahassee) on countless issues and work out, solve issues,” Latvala said.
“We’ve got a lot of issues — not just substance abuse and mental health but infrastructure, environment, prison system, homelessness — just a lot of issues where we need someone who is not running for higher office who can make the tough decisions and do the things that maybe aren’t necessarily popular,” Latvala said.
A committee Latvala heads called the Florida Leadership Committee raised $362,155 in July and began August with $3.8 million in cash on hand. That’s more money than any of the announced Democrats, but it falls short of the $12.4 million cash pile Putnam has accumulated between his main campaign and his Florida Grown committee.