Sen. Jack Latvala considers district switch that could set up bruising primary

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, looked like he was heading toward an easy re-election without serious opposition in a newly drawn North Pinellas Senate district.

But some last-minute political intrigue could make things a lot more interesting.

Latvala acknowledged Monday he could switch seats and instead run in a district covering south Pinellas and part of Tampa — potentially creating a tough match-up between the veteran senator and state Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who also is looking at that Senate seat and conspicuously declined to endorse Latvala for future Senate president.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Latvala said, noting that his current Senate seat includes 80 percent of the redrawn south Pinellas district. "A lot of people have talked to me and said they'd like me to continue representing south Pinellas and Tampa."

The political machinations are all about Latvala ensuring he has the votes in the Senate to become Senate president in 2016.

There's a hitch: Republican state Rep. Jim Frishe, of St. Petersburg, a strong Latvala ally, already is running for that south Pinellas seat. Despite speculation about Frishe switching to the North Pinellas district, he has little interest in that. "I don't have any plans to move. My wife has lived in her home, I guess, 40 years now," said Frishe. "I'm certainly not making any plans to do anything at this point other than run for the office I'm already running for."

Latvala is competing for the Senate presidency with state Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville.

If enough Thrasher allies win in 2012 — and Brandes is widely seen as one — Latvala could be out of luck for the leadership post. And Latvala, a popular and high-profile leader, would appear to be a stronger contender than the low-profile Frishe against Brandes, a member of the Cox Lumber family who could easily spend at least $1 million of his money on his campaign. Brandes is already airing TV ads for his state House re-election campaign. The deadline to qualify is June 8.

Sen. Jack Latvala considers district switch that could set up bruising primary 05/14/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 14, 2012 11:27pm]

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