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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Brandes for Fla Senate - against Jack Latvala or Jim Frishe?

State Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, today filed to run for the Florida Senate, setting up a potentially bruising primary that could pit him either against state Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, or state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

"We need a strong leader to represent south Pinellas. I've shown leadership in the House and I bring a fresh perspective both as a small business owner and former military officer," said Brandes, 36.

Senate District 22 stretches across south Pinellas and about a quarter of it is in Hillsborough. No Democratic candidate has emerged yet.
The deadline for qualifying is in a week, and it's unclear which veteran legislator will face off against Brandes - Frishe or Latvala. Frishe has planned to run in District 22 and Latvala in the senate district encompassing north Pinellas, but both said Friday they may switch races.

"Jack and I still have to talk about that some," said Frishe, calling Brandes a "young and ambitious" candidate. "It's a redistricting year, so everybody's got to be a little flexible."

Likewise, Latvala called Brandes a "Johnny come lately" with nowhere near the community involvement or legislative experience as Latvala or Frishe.

 "But we dont have millions of dollars in our pockets to blow and move up the ladder," he said, referring to Brandes' wealth as a member of the former Cox Lumber family.

"It's unfortunate that many local Republicans worked their heart out for him to win the house seat just two years ago, when he beat a very loyal guy in the community (Bill Heller) who had a lot of respect in the community just to become another one of those ladder climbers that can't get up the ladder fast enough. I think it's sad."

Democrat Mark Robert Moon last month filed to run in that senate district

Brandes' move sets up a potentially competitive race in his St. Petersburg state House district, where Republican former legislator Frank Farkas is considering running and Democrat Dwight Dudley has already announced. Republican Daryle Lee Hamel filed to run for the seat in January but has kept a low profile since.

[Last modified: Friday, June 1, 2012 2:20pm]


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