Pinellas legislators weigh in on Donald Trump vs. Ted Cruz, best Rays location
I had a fun morning with the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation (sans state Sen. Arthenia Joyner) at the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative breakfast. Among other things, we learned that most of the Republican legislators could hardly muster less enthusiasm when asked whom they prefer - Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.
"Who wants to talk about education?," is how state Rep. James Grant responded, before conceding that he is more in line philosophically with Cruz.
State Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, is one of only two state House members who have endorsed Trump, and said Trump should be the nominee even if he fails to reach the necessary 1,237 delegates: "More people have voted for him to be our nominee so for me I think it's important that's what happens."
State Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, quipped that since "everybody sucks and he's so great" Trump should be able to negotiate his way to the nomination even if he falls short in delegates. ".Literally not a week goes by without me wondering what (Trump's) appeal is....It's almost like he's a Democratic consultant's dream," said Rep. Latvala who nonetheless said Trump might be the stronger general election candidate because he appeals to many Democrats.
Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said he had no plans to endorse but, "If I had to pick between the two, I probably agree more with what Ted Cruz says than I do with Donald Trump."
Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, said Trump in many ways reminds her of Gov. Rick Scott, with his outsider appeal: "I really think Donald Trump is going to end up walking away with it, and I'm not sure I'm happy about that or not," she said.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he's rooting for Paul Ryan to emerge as the nominee, but between Trump and Cruz, he would prefer Cruz.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said he is "not a big fan of either one of them," but will back either over Hillary Clinton. "The good thing about Donald Trump is he is offensive and insulting and gets in people's face. That gives me hope,' he joked, drawing roars from the crowd.
Another interesting point came when the lawmakers were asked to predict where the Rays will be playing in 10 years. Everyone said Tampa Bay, and no one predicted it would be in the downtown St. Petersburg location where they now play. Most of them offered their preferred location, and a few ducked the question. Those who did not:
Grant: Oldsmar. "While transportation-wise it might be difficult, it would have a share of revenue between counties. It probably will not be where they're playing now."
Sprowls: Somewhere in Tampa Bay, even if that winds up being Hillsborough County.
Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg: "Anywhere in St Peter."
Peters: Gateway/Toytown area of mid-Pinellas.
Chris Latvala: Tampa Bay.
Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg: " I predict that the Rays will be playing in Pinellas County...If it's not St. Petersburg we need to be very sensitive about the redevelopment of those 85 acres, since it's surrounded by the largest pocket of poverty in all of Pinellas County and has three of those five failing schools next to it."
Brandes quipped that since Sen. Latvala will be appropriations chairman, the new site should be close to his house.
Jack Latvala: "I subscribe the Pinellas-first theory...I've been there for 14 years with that philosophy in the legislature and that's what I'm going to continue with. I think we've got two sites in Pinellas - either the Oldsmar site or Derby Lane - that I think would work very well."
As for what he can do as appropriations chairman, "The issue of using state funds for a stadium is going to be very difficult with Richard Corcoran as the speaker," Latvala said.