Bill favors Chris Latvala, allowing earlier run for Pinellas commission

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Last year, Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, filed paperwork to run for District 5 of the Pinellas County Commission in 2024, when fellow Republican Karen Seel plans to step down at the end of her sixth term. .

But if a bill introduced this month passes, Latvala, whose term is limited to Florida House this year, won’t have to wait as long to run for Seel’s seat.

House Bill 7061 is the companion to a Senate bill that would create an Office of Election Crimes and Security to investigate voter fraud, an initiative by Gov. Ron DeSantis. But a provision inserted into the House version, filed Feb. 4, would require county commissioners from single-member districts to re-run for their seats following a redistricting process, which in Pinellas was finalized in December. .

The provision exempts various counties, making Pinellas the only Florida government to which it would apply.

In November, Pinellas County District 4 Commissioner Dave Eggers and District 6 Commissioner Kathleen Peters are already re-elected. If passed, the bill’s provision would require Seel and District 7 Commissioner Rene Flowers to run for their seats in November as well, halfway through their terms.

Latvala told the Tampa Bay Weather in a statement, he was not involved in drafting the provision of the bill. But he defended his intention because it would align Pinellas with other counties that already require elections after redistricting, such as Hillsborough.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daniel Perez, R-Miami, did not respond to a phone call or email asking if Latvala, or any of his representatives, were involved in the provision targeting Pinellas. .

Seel did not respond to a phone call or text message seeking comment. In an interview with the TimeFlowers said the bill obviously targeted Seel, allowing Latvala to run for his seat two years earlier.

“It’s obvious what’s going on,” Flowers said. “I just think it speaks again to the lack of integrity he holds. It’s rude, it’s disrespectful and it dishonors a woman’s legacy.

While Latvala has already filed for the Seel seat in 2024, he began talking last year about the possibility of him instead challenging Eggers, another Republican, for District 4 in November.

On Tuesday, Latvala’s campaign issued a press release saying he had raised $100,000 “for his campaign for the Pinellas County Commission,” but the statement did not identify which seat he is running for or when.

Eggers District 4 covers Pinellas County north of most of Clearwater while Seel District 5 covers most of Clearwater, Largo, and part of the beaches.

Latvala currently lives in District 5 of Seel. If he challenged Eggers and won, he would have to move to District 4 by the date the election results are certified, according to the county charter.

“I made it very clear when asked that I might decide to run in a different district this year,” Latvala said in his email to Time. “For example, I was born in Dunedin and I think my brand of conservatism will play well at North Pinellas.”

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Eggers, who raised $45,505 for his re-election campaign, said his reputation as a fiscal conservative holds up.

“If he’s going to try to change the course of the commission, he’s definitely wrong if he runs against me,” Eggers said of Latvala.

Since Pinellas County’s redistricting process in December moved about 16,000 residents, mostly in Clearwater, into a new single-member district, Eggers said there was merit in single-member commissioners running for their seats again. However, he said the restart requirement should have been implemented last year.

If this bill’s provision passes, the timing will mean that Seel and Flowers could have less than six months to raise funds for unexpected re-election campaigns. Latvala began fundraising for his commission run in January 2021.

“Last year would have given everyone time to react,” Eggers said. “It’s probably the right thing to do, I’m just not sure the year is right for those involved.”

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