1. Florida Politics

Republican Jack Latvala to seek North Pinellas Senate seat; Jim Frishe, Jeff Brandes face GOP primary in south

Published Jun. 7, 2012

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater will stay close to home and run for a Senate seat in North Pinellas this fall.

Latvala, who's seeking to become the first Senate president from Pinellas, will run in District 20, which takes in North Pinellas generally north of Ulmerton Road.

"That's the district I live in," Latvala said Wednesday.

His decision ends speculation that the longtime Tampa Bay legislator might run for a different Pinellas-based seat against first-term Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

Brandes will instead face Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, in the Aug. 14 Republican primary for Senate District 22. That district takes in the southern half of Pinellas and part of Tampa. Candidates have until noon Friday to qualify to run for the Legislature.

Frishe admitted Wednesday that he and Latvala had lengthy talks about who would run for which Pinellas seat. The two men considered switching, but both decided to stay put, in part because Frishe and his wife, Susan, didn't want to move.

"It was pretty much a joint decision," said Frishe, a House member since 2006 and a strong supporter of Latvala for Senate president for the 2016-18 term. Latvala does not consider Brandes a supporter.

Frishe, 63, a real estate broker, has been a fixture in Pinellas County politics since the 1980s. Brandes, 36, an Iraq war veteran, has a net worth of more than $10 million, a significant advantage in an abbreviated, 10-week campaign.

"I'm looking forward to working with Sen. Latvala in the Senate," Brandes said.

Despite Brandes' fundraising advantage, Latvala said Frishe has won before when his opponent had more money.

"I think Jim will prevail," Latvala said. "And he's a lot more into walking precincts than I am."

Latvala, Brandes and Frishe are all seeking two-year terms. Whoever wins will face re-election in 2014.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.