Despite the losses of two candidates he supported in Republican primaries Tuesday, Sen. Jack Latvala said he still believes he has enough votes to become Senate president in 2016, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
“There’s not really much change. … I still have a couple vote margin, so it really doesn’t make much difference to me,” said Latvala who is in a fight with Sen. Joe Negron for the leadership position.
For his part, Negron said that after Tuesday’s voting, “the landscape looks very good for a conservative, pro-business Senate going forward.” Negron’s side has tried to position itself as a more conservative alternative to a group led by Latvala, who has shown a maverick streak since rejoining the Senate in 2010 after an eight-year absence.
The most closely watched races unfolded on opposites sides of the state. In northeast Florida, former Rep. Aaron Bean defeated Rep. Mike Weinstein in a race for a Jacksonville-area seat. Meanwhile, in the Tampa Bay area, Rep. Jeff Brandes easily beat Rep. Jim Frishe.
Bean faces Democratic opposition in the general election, while Brandes only faces a write-in candidate. Both Bean and Brandes are considered Negron allies.
Latvala played down the significance of Weinstein’s defeat, saying he mostly got into the race because the level of party support for Bean was “a little bit beyond the pale.” But he conceded that Frishe’s loss was a blow to his coalition.
Key to Latvala’s hopes will be the general election fight underway between Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican close to Latvala, and Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton. Bogdanoff and Sachs were thrown together in this year’s redistricting process.
“That’s pretty darn important,” Latvala said.
Negron declined to specifically say whether he believes he is ahead of Latvala, but suggested that the race is moving his way.
“I feel very confident that things will continue in the direction that our team is looking to advance,” he said.
The battle between Latvala and Negron has its roots in a power struggle that broke out during the last legislative session, when Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, tried to oust Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, from becoming Senate president in 2014. That proved unsuccessful after Latvala helped shore up Gardiner’s support.
Thrasher and Negron were believed to be allies in that fight, with Negron set to be president beginning in 2016. Latvala, who had been considered a rival for Gardiner in 2014, then switched his attention to the later race.
In a campaign unlikely to affect the presidency battle, Rep. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Rep. Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach looked Wednesday like they were still headed to a recount with Clemens holding a razor-thin lead in the Democratic primary for a Palm Beach County Senate seat.