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Sen. Negron claims victory in presidency race amid uncertainty

Florida Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is declaring he has secured enough votes to become the Senate president in 2016 even though there is major uncertainty over who will even be in the Senate.

Negron put out a list of 13 senators who have pledge their support to him, even though some of those members are certain not be in the Senate in 2016 because of term limits. And others could lose their seats due to a special session on redistricting that is set to begin on October.

Still Negron was unequivocal in his declaration that he has more votes than Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who has been his main rival for the position.

"I am also gratified that the overwhelming majority of announced candidates in the 2016 open Senate seats have already formally pledged their support to me and our team," Negron said. "It is clear that the Caucus is ready to formally designate its next Senate President."

Latvala called Negron's statement a ploy designed to pressure Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, into calling a caucus of all 26 Republican senators to make Negron the next president. Latvala said Negron is "losing momentum" because three senators pledged to him cannot run again, and that those open seats could alter the competition for president.

"I think he's trying to gain a semblance of momentum," Latvala said. "Most people believe that if the maps are fairly drawn, that I do a whole lot better."

"This is another attempt where if you say you're the winner enough times, you think it will become a fact."

In recent history, Florida Senate leaders are picked years in advance. In 2018 Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has already secured enough votes to lead the chamber. And in 2020, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, is expected to be the leader. But who will lead the chamber in 2016 has been an open question as neither Negron or Latvala have been able to amass enough support to pull away.

Negron said his support includes: Sens: Don Gaetz, Aaron Bean, Travis Hutson, Rob Bradley, Dorothy Hukill, Kelli Stargel, Thad Altman, Wilton Simpson, Jeff Brandes, Garrett Richter, Bill Galvano, Lizbeth Benacquisto , Joe Negron and Anitere Flores.

Gaetz, Richter and Altman all face term limits and cannot seek re-election to their current districts.

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, who has sided with Latvala, said he thinks it's premature to be claiming victory with the senate redistricting looming.

"I wouldn't doubt that he has them or not, but now with a 2016 session coming in, who knows what is going to happen with the Senate maps," Garcia said. "The truth is we know the state of Florida Senate maps are going to change to what degree is unknown. It all depends on what happens next year. No one can claim victory until Senate maps get redrawn and people run again."