Jack Latvala gets his way as Pinellas Republicans will now battle between themselves before facing Alex Sink in the spring

  • Jack Latvala takes control at SPC

When David Jolly announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination for Congress in Congressional District 13 two weeks ago, he had a powerful supporter by his side - the late Pinellas Congressman's wife, Beverly. Soon endorsements came in from other powerful members of the GOP establishment, such as former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, former U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gordon England.

Shortly thereafter, nearly all of the rumored possible other entrants in the race bailed out of the contest- with the exception of Pinellas state House member Kathleen Peters, who declared her candidacy Tuesday morning (see our earlier post).

At her official ceremony announcing her candidacy from St. Petersburg College's campus in Pinellas Park, Peters gave up the mic after his speech concluded, and handed off to Clearwater-area state Senator Jack Latvala, a strong proponent for her candidacy, and the most outspoken local Republican who has challenged the hegemony of a Jolly candidacy. Recently Latvala had been quoted as saying “I really don't think the timing is right for a Washington lobbyist to move to our district and run for Congress” while adding, "I will guarantee you there will be another candidate besides him."

Today Latvala told CL that he's got nothing against Washington D.C. lobbyists per se, saying he used to be one himself. But he said that Jolly has "lived up there (in Washington), he's spent his time up there, he's never done anything in our community."

Latvala made similar remarks about about Democrat Alex Sink also lacking Pinellas County roots.

"I just think that we deserve a Congressman who has served our community, who has worked on our charities, who has helped make our community better, because that's how you learn about a community. If you're going to represent us, you need to know about us," he maintained.

When asked for reaction, David Jolly said that while he likes and respects Latvala, he's dead wrong when it comes to challenging his roots in Pinellas County.

"He's saying this for political purposes," Jolly said, citing a list of local boards that he serves on, such as the Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast and the Center for Excellence in Elder Law at Stetson Law School, as well as serving as the current zoning board chair in Indian Shores. "Jack knows all of this. Jack is just saying this for his own political purposes."

And Latvala strongly disagreed with the notion that Bill Young's family is rock solid behind Jolly in the race to succeed the late Congressman, who died late last month just shortly after announcing that he would not run for re-election in 2014. That was evident by the fact that Congressman Young's son Billy was at the event for Peters today.

Billy Young told reporters that "There's no family rift. I know some people are hoping there is, but there's not."

In his remarks to the audience, Latvala said he loved Bill Young, and considered him to be the "epitome of a public servant" who the Senator has always tried to emulate himself after. He said that he was "saddened" when it appeared that the most viable candidates to succeed Young were two people (Sink and Jolly) from outside of the community.

To illustrate how solid Peters' backing is from as much of the Pinellas GOP establishment as Jolly has, Latvala then went about introducing virtually every man and women (outside of Peters' immediate family) who were standing in the background at today's announcement, which included Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, his predecessor Jim Coats, state Representative Ed Hooper, and a bevy of locally elected officials.

In speaking to CL Tuesday afternoon, Jolly sounded very much like Peters when talking about being a positive force on Capitol Hill. Calling himself a "Bill Young Republican," he said that he can work together with Republicans, Democrats and independents in Washington. "That is what this county and I think the country is thirsting for right now."

Former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield told CL at the Kathleen Peters announcement that the Republican Party has two good candidates, but it would be county voters, and not "some bosses in Washington D.C.", who would decide on who will face Alex Sink in the special Congressional election in March.

Brickfield telegraphed the attacks that will undoubtedly come Sink's way once the GOP decides on their candidate in mid-January, saying that President Obama's healthcare plan is "imploding" and it will be up to Sink to explain to the people in Congressional District 13 "why our prices are going up for healthcare, why we're losing healthcare, why are policies that we like disappearing, and why she supports such a disastrous program."

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