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Why Gaetz chose Latvala to handle ethics and elections

It wasn't his first, second, or even 10th choice for a Senate committee post.

But Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will play a pivotal role as chairman of the Ethics & Elections Committee as it focuses on two of Senate President Don Gaetz's top priorities: raising ethical standards for legislators and retooling election laws.

Gaetz and Latvala were on opposite sides during the fall campaign in key Senate races that will help decide the future leadership of the 40-member body. But Gaetz said Latvala was the best choice to tackle ethics and elections issues because of his own experience, dating to his years as a young GOP operative in the 1980s. He also said Latvala's integrity has not been questioned and that he knows how to assemble bipartisan coalitions, a necessary ingredient for passage of tough legislation.

"Jack's not a virgin," Gaetz said. "He's had all this experience, but kept his record extraordinarily clean." 

"Nobody in the Senate has had more experience in Florida elections than Jack Latvala," Gaetz went on. "He's been an operative, a consultant, a candidate, and a campaign manager for more elections than anyone. So he has a depth of understanding of the nuances of the elections process ... I also think it's important to have someone who doesn't have a problem, a skeleton, an anchor dragging behind them on ethics issues." 

As he gaveled the committee's first session to order two weeks ago, Latvala said: "We each have our reasons for probably being on this committee. Some of us asked for it and some of us probably didn't."  

All senators listed their committee preferences. Latvala's top three choices were the Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation and Economic Development, Community Affairs, and Regulated Industries. He got the first two; Gaetz placed him on a newly-created Gaming Committee, which may eclipse Regulated Industries in seeing gambling-related action next session.

-- Steve Bousquet