Starting in high school, a young man in Jacksonville decided to explore some big moral issues — abortion, racism, violence, homosexuality — and write a book about them.
The teenage author called for returning prayer to public schools, deemed homosexuality "a mistake someone makes," and said "abortion is wrong in all circumstances, except when the pregnancy could cause the mother's death."
Now Chris Latvala is a Republican candidate for state representative in House District 67, which represents Clearwater and Largo. His book was published in 2001, when he was a 19-year-old college student.
Not surprisingly, the 32-year-old candidate said his teenage writings don't fully reflect his views today. He said he wrote the book after he started to realize he might not make it as a sports play-by-play announcer, and he began to get interested in history and politics. As he recalls, the book grew out of a high school research project and became his way of exploring his still-forming views on a variety of subjects.
But the book does provide something unusual: a look at a candidate's political musings during his formative years, and a benchmark for how his ideas have evolved since.
Latvala, who is vice president of a printing company and son of state Sen. Jack Latvala, is running against Army veteran and college student Christopher Shepard in the Republican primary on Tuesday.
He's not the only person in the race who has written a book. Democratic candidate Shawna Vercher wrote a book describing faults she perceives in the legal system. She faces municipal worker and union president Steve Sarnoff and dairy employee Thomas Ryan in the primary.
In Latvala's book, he described his Christian faith and tackled several political and social issues.
"When it comes to abortion, I am pro-life all the way!" Latvala wrote. He quoted extensively from Roe vs. Wade and also the Bible. He also spoke against violence at abortion clinics.
A reporter this week asked Latvala about his statement that abortion is wrong except in cases to protect a mother's life. Many anti-abortion politicians also carve out an exception for victims of rape or incest.
Latvala said this week he agrees with that stance. "I was pro-life then and I'm pro-life now," he said. But, he added, "I'm also not going to go tell a woman that's been raped that she has to keep her baby."
Now that he is older, Latvala said, "I've had friends that have had abortions and I've had friends that have been raped." As to the friend who ended up having an abortion, "I tried to talk her out of it, but I was still her friend afterwards."
Latvala's book came out within two years of the tragic shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, and he devotes a chapter to violence. He wrote:
When there was prayer in public schools you did not hear about school shootings. When God is taken out of our schools, there is only one other force that will be there. That is Satan. So, if the government wants to end school violence, then they need to put God back in His place in America's public schools.
This week, Latvala said he understands the separation of church and state, and "I don't believe the government should be mandating prayers in public schools." On the other hand, if students want to gather on campus for a Bible club, he thinks they should be allowed to.
Latavala also spoke out against racism in the book, but at one point asked, "Why do we need the NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Colored People) and a group called the NAAWP (National Association of the Advancement of White People)? I propose we have the NAAAP (The National Association of the Advancement of All People!).
Latvala this week stressed that he appreciates the work done by the NAACP, and "if I'm a state representative, I look forward to working with them."
On homosexuality, Latvala wrote:
Homosexuality is a choice made by someone through his/her free will. I believe it is a mistake someone makes, but I make mistakes every day of my life. It is a part of human nature. We were all born sinners. However, it should be a goal each day to live godly lives.
Asked about that passage this week, Latvala said, "keep in mind, I wrote that 16 years ago. People over time change. During my life I have come across many friends who are homosexuals, and when I look at them I don't look at them as being gay, I look at them as being my friends."
What if the Legislature was asked to vote for or against allowing gay marriage? He said he is not sure how he would vote, but believes "eventually same-sex marriage is going to be allowed."
Latvala's book is not available on most online sites such as amazon.com, and when the Tampa Bay Times asked Latvala for a copy, he said he didn't have one. The book was published through a print-on-demand service, which paid him $5 per book. He said he sold about 15.
"I haven't read it since I wrote it," Latvala said.
The Times found a copy in Special Collections at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Curtis Krueger at [email protected] or (727) 892-8232. Follow @ckruegertimes.