Latvala gubernatorial bid goes live

Popcorn, please.

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click to enlarge Latvala gubernatorial bid goes live
Screen grab, Florida Division of Elections

It's a weird time to be a Republican candidate for statewide office in Florida, where hard-line tea party politics collide with moderate pragmatism.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who's probably the best-known Republican running for governor, has been trying to amp up his hard-right cred with overtures to the NRA even as past moderate positions on things like immigration haunt him. The result? Anyone could easily accuse him of pandering to the same conservative base that won Florida for Donald Trump in Marco Rubio's home state (not that Rubio is remotely moderate).

That's why State Sen. from Clearwater Jack Latvala's entering the GOP primary will make the race particularly interesting to watch.

Latvala's run became official Friday when he opened a campaign account with the Florida Division of Elections after months of speculation, and he is set to announce it Wednesday at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

It's unclear how he plans to connect with conservative voters who may not have agreed with his position on things like Medicaid expansion and in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants; Latvala doesn't seem like the pandering type, but who knows?

And, considering how Trump's fans overlook how his positions, past and present, are all over the place, perhaps it doesn't matter.

Perhaps what matters more here is personality.

He could easily point to past splits with his party as evidence of maverick-like tendencies.

Plus, isn't all in the delivery?

Anyone that's been to a forum or another occasion where he speaks off the cuff know to expect a few laugh lines — and that he shows no mercy to those who cross him. 

That could help him win over Floridians in rural areas who might be attracted to Putnam's down-home charm or the hard-right tea party leanings of Ron DeSantis (who has yet to announce a run).

The winner of the GOP primary will go on to face whoever takes the Democratic primary, for which contenders are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King. Among those still speculated to run on the Dem side are Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine and lawyer John Morgan, though the latter has said he wouldn't run if Latvala jumped in.

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