JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a show of solidarity and support for gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala, the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police gathered in Duval County this weekend to officially endorse the Clearwater Republican for governor.
It was circulated via press release on Friday that Sen. Latvala would be making a "significant" campaign announcement in Jacksonville the following day. First Coast News was informed that there would be a large presence of first responders at the event, a customary occurrence at most recent Latvala campaign stops.
The Florida State Lodge FOP President Robert Jenkins gathered with other first responders in Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon to formally announce their support of Latvala. Jenkins, eager to announce his support, started the introduction by endorsing Latvala for president.
“The Fraternal Order of Police is here to endorse Jack Latvala for president,” Jenkins mistakenly said. “I wish president. Sorry about that. For governor of the great State of Florida. There is no one better. We back Jack.”
With 104 FOP lodges in the State of Florida, the official endorsement from the powerful police union brings with it more than 22,000 members whose votes will most likely be cast in favor of Latvala come next year.
“I’m very, very happy and appreciative to have the Fraternal Order of Police endorsement in the governor’s race,” Latvala said. “The FOP is the organization that a couple of years ago, several of the members, encouraged me to look at running for governor. We’ve had a long and very good relationship.”
The Florida State FOP join firefighters in Miami, Orlando and St. Petersburg, as well as other communities, who have already pledged their endorsement for Latvala.
As a state senator, Latvala has stood up for the retirement system as it pertains to first responders, as well as introduce legislation that helped create the Florida Law Enforcement Officer alert system.
“It’s been a constant battle to ensure that we don’t reduce the pensions that they work for, especially in the middle of the game, as others have proposed doing,” Latvala said. “It’s important they get compensated for putting their lives on the line every single day when they go to work.”
Latvala officially launched his campaign for governor back in August at a fire station in South Florida. The FOP’s future endorsement was foreshadowed by the strong presence of first responders who attended Latvala’s campaign kickoff that day. Jenkins, as well as Jim Tolley, president of the Florida Professional Firefighters, were in attendance.
"This is a big boost to my campaign," Latvala said. "This is the first endorsement in this race of a significant size membership organization and I am so appreciative of them honoring me with this endorsement.”
Since August, Latvala has raised over $668,000 in donations, a majority of which was picked during the month of September. Latvala has a little over $600,000 cash on hand.
The Clearwater Republican has paid over $13,800 in consulting fees to Champion Consultants, LLC and Zachary Whitson, owner of TWG Technologies and son of former political consultants Jeff and Kathy Whitson.
A political committee closely tied to Latvala shows a total of $428,825 in monetary contributions since his announcement in August. Large contributions of $10,000 or more for the month of September have come from the Tampa Bay Rays, South Florida Stadium, Rearden IP and Perry-McCall Construction of Jacksonville, Fla.
The Florida Leadership Committee has also recently logged some relatively large expenditures. In September, the committee gave $70,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and spent an additional $33,000 on consulting fees. The committee currently has about $3.9 million on hand.
Follow Jordan Ferrell on Twitter at @J_E_Ferrell.