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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

After private swearing-in, Scott's new L.G. is feted at mansion



History was made at Florida's Capitol Monday, but only a select few people witnessed it.

Gov. Rick Scott held a private swearing-in ceremony for the state's first Hispanic lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who took the oath of office from Joseph Lewis Jr., chief judge of the First District Court of Appeal. Scott's aides said the ceremony took place at about 10:30 a.m. in Scott's office, with no news media reporters or photographers present.

(The governor's office inadvertently earlier told reporters that Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston did the oath).

Lopez-Cantera's wife, Renee, and their two young daughters were present and aides said the governor's office would soon release photos of the ceremony. A second ceremony, planned for the House chamber later in the day, is strictly a photo-op -- not the real thing.

Scott and Lopez-Cantera, a former House majority leader and most recently the elected property appraiser for Miami-Dade County, met reporters outside the Capitol just before hosting a luncheon at the mansion for the new L.G.

"I'm very proud to be part of the governor's team," Lopez-Cantera said. "Results matter, and his record is something to be proud of. Unemployment down to 6.2 percent from 11.1, 462,000 new jobs in the state ... "

"This is a great day for the state of Florida," Scott said. "He is going to do an outstanding job."

Scott said Lopez-Cantera's top assignment was to make sure the Legislature passes a $500 million package of fee and tax cuts -- a plan legislative leaders have already publicly endorsed. The job of lieutenant governor is known for its lack of specific duties.

The closed-door swearing-in wasn't the only missed opportunity on CLC's first day in office. As a brief media gaggle ended at the mansion, a TV news photographer asked if the new lieutenant governor could make remarks in Spanish -- largely for TV stations in Miami. But he continued walking back into the mansion.

Inside, guests included a number of close friends and relatives of the new lieutenant governor. They dined on saffron paella, braised chicken, shrimp and warm cajeta bread pudding for dessert. A baby stroller was parked next to the head table -- a sight not seen lately in the mansion.

Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford sat with Scott at the luncheon. Also present were CFO Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi; Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth; Sens. John Thrasher and Anitere Flores, both of whom surfaced as possible LG picks for Scott; former House Speaker Dean Cannon, now a lobbyist; and lobbyist Bill Rubin, a friend of Scott's who advocated picking Lopez-Cantera for the No. 2 spot on the Scott ticket this fall.

One of the few Democrats on hand was Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, whose family is long-time friends with the Lopez-Canteras. "Carlos is my friend," Braynon said. Asked how the selection will help Scott's fortunes in November, Braynon said: "I don't think it really matters who he picks as lieutenant governor. It still comes down to everything he (Scott) has done or hasn't done."

[Last modified: Monday, February 3, 2014 1:56pm]


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