After a morning meeting over coffee at a Tallahassee Panera's, rival Senate president candidates Andy Gardiner and Jack Latvala said Wednesday they and their supporters have found harmony despite a failed attempt on Tuesday by three of the Senate's most powerful leaders to oust both of them from their campaign for president.
"What happened on Tuesday was one of the low points of anything I have observed in my 40-year political career in Florida,'' Latvala told the Herald/Times Wednesday. "You don't treat your friends that way. Andy Gardiner is a good, decent man. He doesn't deserve to be treated that way."
He was referring to a meeting called by Sens. John Thrasher and Joe Negron with at least six of Gardiner's supporters, asking each of them to sign a pledge card supporting Thrasher for Senate president in 2014 and Negron in 2016.
"I am beyond impressed with the members of the Senate,'' Gardiner said Wednesday. Last night he called Simmons "a rock star."
Latvala said that he believes that between him and Gardiner they have the support of 15 of the 20 legislators returning next year after term limits. He and Gardiner "had a nice conversation,'' this morning, he said. "There's no conclusion right now other than we're going to be united in one effort for the betterment of the Florida Senate."
Still unknown is what this means for Thrasher, Negron and Sen. Don Gaetz, the incoming Senate president who senators say was supportive of the insurgence by the other two. Many observers in the Capitol have suggested that the three have weakened their status within the close-knit Senate, a situation that could leave Gaetz vulnerable to being unseated by next fall after an unsettled election year.
"I have no comment,'' said Latvala when asked about that. Gardiner would only say: "I'm great with everybody."
But Latvala, a former veteran legislator who returned in 2010, has long been a critic of the top-down approach of Senate leadership. The move against Gardiner was an example of how a small group of leaders attempt to claim control of the chamber, he said.
"I've said since I came back here this is a 40-member Senate and every member has a piece of it,'' he said. "It's high time that everybody understand that."