After long leadership fight, Negron poised to be Senate leader
After three-and-a-half years of intense personal combat, Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart will be designated as the next president of the Florida Senate Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol.
Negron, 54, a lawyer, clinched the presidency when his longtime rival, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, accepted Negron's offer last month to be chairman of the Senate budget-writing committee for the next two years.
"It was a long and difficult leadership race, but I think that I'm stronger because of it," Negron told the Times/Herald in an interview. "I feel like we're one team and one caucus and I think it worked out well." He praised Latvala's efforts to quickly unify the 26-member Senate Republican caucus.
A West Palm Beach native, Negron was elected to the House in 2000 and to the Senate in 2009 and along the way mounted unsuccessful campaigns for Congress and state attorney general. His Treasure Coast district spans parts of Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties.
Considered a budget expert, he has been a vocal defender of civil liberties issues at the Capitol, such as restricting the use of drones for surveillance by law enforcement and opposing random drug testing of public employees. He has focused on water, health care and higher education, and says a priority as Senate president will be to improve Florida's university system.
Negron's wife, Rebecca, is a Martin County school board member and candidate for Congress. She's in Tallahassee for the designation ceremony along with his parents, Joe and Pat Negron of Marietta, Ga. Local supporters who traveled to the Capitol include Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, Indian River County commissioners Bob Solari and Tim Zorc and Sherry Plymale, who was a top aide to former state Commissioner of Education Frank Brogan.
Negron has assumed command of the Senate Republicans' fund-raising apparatus and he'll have his hands full. Florida courts have not yet approved a new map of all 40 Senate districts, and all seats are expected to be up for grabs in the 2016 election cycle, adding a measure of political uncertainty over what the next Senate might look like.