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Latvala to stay in put in North Pinellas district, instead of challenging Brandes

Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater confirms he'll file qualifying papers to run in the redrawn Senate District 20 in North Pinellas. s016.jpg

His decision ends speculation that the longtime Pinellas lawmaker might run in District 22, where first-term Rep. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jim Frishe will meet in a Republican primary. "I'm going to run in District 20. That's the district I live in," Latvala said Wednesday. The compact district covers all of North Pinellas north of Ulmerton Road. 

Latvala, a candidate for Senate president in 2016, had considered challenging Brandes whom he doesn't count as a supporter for his Senate presidency bid. The Herald/Times mapped out the impact of this year's elections on the continuing Senate presidency fight here.

Latvala said he has confidence in Frishe's ability to win the open seat. The wealthy Brandes is able to self-finance his campaign, but Latvala said Frishe was outspent by a 3-to-1 margin in 2006 when he won the House seat, and he said "a lot of people are pretty [comfortable] with Jim as a candidate. I think Jim will prevail." 

"He's a lot more into walking precincts than I am," Latvala said of Frishe. "That's just the match I decided to make." 

One other candidate has opened a fund-raising account -- but not yet qualified -- in District 20: Zahid Roy of Clearwater.

-- Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas