Republican running for Florida governor says he’ll be the pragmatic one

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala of Clearwater opened a Republican campaign for governor on Friday, positioning himself as a pragmatic figure in what could become an ideologically charged GOP primary.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam already has launched a conservative-themed Republican campaign. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, could also join the GOP field and challenge Putnam from the right.

Latvala, who visited Palm Beach State College on Tuesday for a briefing on the opioid crisis, will roll out his candidacy Wednesday with events in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City.

In a brief interview Tuesday before the opioid roundtable, Latvala presented himself as a problem-solving figure.

“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.”

In a May interview with The Palm Beach Post, Latvala described himself as “a guy who’s focused on getting things done and I think that’s what we need in a governor … not so much about following a particular political dogma or talking points from one side or the other. It’s about seeing problems and solving them.”

Latvala, 65, is the owner and chief executive of a Largo-based printing business. A graduate of Stetson University in DeLand, he is married with a daughter and a son, state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater. Jack Latvala served in the state Senate from 1994 to 2002, then began a second Senate stint in 2010.

With Republican Gov. Rick Scott facing term limits in 2018, Democrats also have a crowded gubernatorial field.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park businessman Chris King have opened Democratic campaigns and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and trial lawyer John Morgan are mulling the race.

Putnam has dominated rivals in both parties in fundraising. He began August with $12.4 million in cash on hand between his main campaign and his Florida Grown political committee.

Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee raised $362,155 in July and has $3.8 million in the bank as Latvala begins his formal campaign.

Corcoran, who has said he won’t decide on a run for governor until next year, heads a committee called Watchdog PAC that began August with $2.8 million.

A committee called Fund for Florida’s Future has $1.2 million on hand and is expected to back DeSantis, who is considering a run for governor or attorney general.

Graham has been the top Democratic fundraiser. Between her main campaign and her Our Florida committee, she began August with more than $2.2 million in cash on hand. King began the month with $1.7 million, which includes $1 million of his own money, while Gillum had $652,434.

Levine, the Miami Beach mayor pondering either a Democratic or no-party campaign, has put $2.6 million of his own money into a committee called All About Florida. The committee had $4.4 million in cash on hand as of July 31.

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