Senate Budget Chief Jack Latvala did not hold back when asked in a local Miami TV interview Sunday about his potential Republican rivals in the 2018 governor's race.
Would Latvala, a Clearwater senator who has yet to declare a bid, make a better governor than Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has?
"Oh, absolutely," Latvala told WFOR-CBS 4's Jim DeFede on "Facing South Florida." "Because I've actually made a payroll. I've actually paid workers comp claims. I've been in business all these years, while Adam has been in elected office since he was 22 years old."
What about House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, another possible contender?
"Richard is a trial lawyer at heart," Latvala declared. "That's his background: He's a lawyer with a law firm that lobbies now. I don't knonw how much he actually works and practices law. He's basically a government animal as well."
Latvala spent eight years in the Legislature in the 1990s, and is in the seventh year of his second legislative tour.
Latvala, who said he'll make a decision about whether to run in August, pitched himself as a practical alternative.
"The values that I have, the record that I have of accomplishment, is going to be appealing to people who want to see results," he said. I"m not a guy who just goes and talks. I'm a guy that goes and solves problems, and I think that's what people want more than anything else in their political leaders."
Asked if he considers himself a moderate, Latvala said -- not surprisingly -- that he considers himself a conservative.
"But I'm a little more environmentally conscious, perhaps, than other Republicans," he said. "And I'm an old-fashioned Republican from the standpoint that I think government ought to stay out of our lives -- and that includes our personal lives. Some people think that makes me a moderate. Let them think what they want."
As governor, Latvala said he'd keep incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott's focus on jobs, but also add issues like infrastructure and mental-health spending to his priorities.
Latvala did not directly criticize the governor, even though Scott signed a contentious education law, House Bill 7069, that Latvala voted for but thought Scott would veto.
This session, Latvala said, is "probably my least favorite of the 15 that I've been involved in."
"Tallahassee is becoming too much like Washington," he said. Then, without naming names, he added: "We have a lot of vitriol, a lot of unpleasantness, that we didn't used to have in Tallahassee -- even among the leaders of our own party. Name-calling. A lot of big egos in play."
Photo credit: Steve Cannon, Associated Press