Saturday, January 20, 2018
Politics

Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes not interested in Rep. C.W. Bill Young's seat

Give Jack Latvala credit for offering up one of the weightiest questions for today's political era.

"Who wants to be in a job that is rated less favorably than a cockroach?" the Republican state senator from Clearwater asked on Facebook on Thursday, announcing he will not be among those running to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Latvala, a seasoned political operative who has represented most of Young's district, would have immediately emerged as a frontrunner. Same goes for state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who could personally fund a lavish campaign, but also took himself out of the mix Thursday.

"The decision is simple," he said. "I have a young family and think for now I can best serve our region in the Florida Senate."

Meanwhile, the prospect emerged of a campaign pitting the heirs of two giants in Florida politics: Republican Billy Young, the 29-year-old son of Rep. Young, and Democrat Ben Diamond, 35, the grandson of late U.S. Rep. Dante Fascell, who represented Miami-Dade from 1955 to 1993.

"Reading these stories about Congressman Young's retirement makes me think back to my granddad's retirement. There's a reason people call that generation the greatest generation," said Diamond, a lawyer and Clearwater native who served as general counsel to Alex Sink when she was chief financial officer.

"Public service is always something I've aspired to do," said Diamond, who has not made any decisions.

Billy Young, a Pinellas Park resident who works in business development at the National Forensic Science Technology Center, had been preparing to run against Democratic state Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg, but said Thursday: "Anything could be a possibility."

The first officially announced candidate is likely to be Nick Zoller, a little-known Republican political consultant, but other prospective Republicans include former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker; Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel; Clearwater mayor and longtime former Young aide George Cretekos; former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard; and former Young aide David Jolly.

Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni, once interested in the job, said he will not run.

Democratic lawyer Jessica Ehrlich is already running for the seat for a second time, and other Democratic prospects include Pinellas County Commissioners Ken Welch, Charlie Justice and Janet Long.

Given the competitiveness of Congressional District 13, which stretches from Dunedin to Fort De Soto Park but excludes much of southern St. Petersburg, the race is likely to be one of the closest watched in the country. The respected, nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report revised its rating for the seat from "Safe Republican" to "Pure Tossup" with Young's retirement announcement.

"It almost goes without saying, but this is the type of seat and race Democrats have to win in order to have any chance of gaining the 17 seats they need in 2014 to get back to the majority," Rothenberg noted.

Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected]

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