Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Politics

Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala will not seek re-election in November

Weeks after she filed to run for re-election this November, Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala announced on Tuesday that she has decided not to pursue another term in office.

Latvala, 64, a three-term Republican from Palm Harbor who has been on the commission since 2000, said she has been debating for months whether to run again. She filed paperwork on Jan. 10 to seek another four-year term against a cast of six opponents — the most she has ever faced.

But in the weeks after she filed, her doubts persisted. Though a driven and politically ambitious person, she found the idea of planning a campaign kickoff held little appeal. On Monday, she decided to withdraw from the race.

"I just started reflecting back on my life and what I want the rest of it to look like and what I've done," she said in an interview Tuesday. "Twenty-two years I've been doing this. It's time for a break."

Latvala announced her retirement after Tuesday's commission meeting. While wiping away tears, she said serving on the board had been "the greatest honor of my life."

First elected to public office in 1992, Latvala won a seat on the School Board and, eight years later, ran for the District 4 commission seat. She faced serious opposition only once — in 2010, when a three-way Republican primary threatened to knock her out of office.

A moderate, Latvala has often ignored political lines that separate the commission's seven members, tussling just as often with her fellow Republicans as with Democrats. In 2008, she voted in favor of an ordinance banning discrimination against lesbians, gays and bisexuals, and pushed her colleagues to extend the protections to transgendered people, a step the commission refused to take until five years later.

Latvala also cast a key vote in favor of a summer ban on selling fertilizer in Pinellas, a law the commission passed in 2009 to cut pollution. Over loud objections from the fertilizer industry, Latvala said the ban should be made statewide. Taking the industry's side, the state Legislature banned other counties from passing similar ordinances.

One of relatively few woman on the commission, Latvala stood out for her frankness and biting sarcasm.

"She is the gutsiest elected official I know," said Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. "If she did not agree on something, she'd let folks know that. Not all elected officials do that."

There is little doubt that if Latvala had stayed in the race, she would have won. Among her six opponents, which include three Republicans, one Democrat and two candidates who are running without a party, none is household names.

"The Latvala name is a large name in Pinellas politics and this new development does throw the election into a new dynamic," said Michael Guju, chairman of the Pinellas Republican Party. She and state Sen. Jack Latvala divorced in 2005.

Guju said he expects more candidates to come forward. "People who are probably better known."

On the subject of her retirement, Latvala said she isn't going to change her mind again.

"If you hurry up and put it in the newspaper, I can't go back," she said.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

Comments
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not the way to resol...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administration’s move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.It’s also...
Published: 06/17/18

Pasco Political Notebook

Perenich to ‘Walk the District’Stephen Perenich, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Florida District 12, will be "Walking the District" June 25-29. Perenich will be walking 55 miles in five days, starting in Dade City and heading...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18