William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

State Sen. Tom Lee, a member of the state Constitution Revision Commission, has proposed combining the jobs of lieutenant governor and secretary of state to help save a six-figure salary. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
State Sen. Tom Lee, a member of the state Constitution Revision Commission, has proposed combining the jobs of lieutenant governor and secretary of state to help save a six-figure salary. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

Itís an old joke that Floridaís lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governorís health.

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, says that should change, but his proposal also adds a fillip to executive branch power.

A member of the state Constitution Revision Commission, Lee has proposed an amendment to have the lieutenant governor serve as secretary of state, with the duties of a chief elections, cultural and protocol officer.

Paying both officials costs more than $265,000 a year, so that would save one salary and make the elections chief, now a governorís appointee, "elected by and accountable to the people," Lee said.

But it would also give the lieutenant governor the power to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Florida Senate, where the minority Democrats hope to approach parity with Republicans in the next few election cycles.

A tie vote in either house of the Legislature now kills a bill. That stopped measures favored by conservative Senate Republicans but opposed by moderates and Democrats.

Maniscalco, Reddick sponsor Straz lunch

Tampa City Council members Guido Maniscalco and Frank Reddick are listed as co-sponsors of a West Tampa-style spaghetti lunch to be held Dec. 3 by David Strazís exploratory committee for the 2019 mayorís race.

But Maniscalco said that doesnít mean heís backing Straz for mayor because Straz hasnít yet said heíll run. Maniscalco said he let Straz use his name as a courtesy because Straz has supported Maniscalco in the past, letting him use Strazís name in campaigns.

"Itís not an endorsement or pledge of any kind," Maniscalco said. "With the mayorís race, itís best to stay neutral. Whoever wins I have to work with."

Riddick, on the other hand, said he meant it as an endorsement: "I do plan to support him for mayor."

Some local progressives, angered that Straz voted for Donald Trump in 2016, say Democrats shouldnít support Straz even in a non-partisan race.

Straz says heís changed his views of Trump, but thereís been a social media backlash against Maniscalco, Reddick and council member Yolie Capin, chairman of Strazís committee.

Maniscalco said the issue "has been blown out of proportion. I wish theyíd asked me."

Reddick said he was disappointed to learn that Straz voted for Trump, but, "I can forgive that," depending on the economic stimulus Straz would bring to the black community. "Iím sure quite a few people who voted for (Trump) now regret it."

Spano wants Joe Wicker to succeed him in House

With an endorsement from outgoing state Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, Republican Joe Wicker is off to a fast start in the race for the District 59 House seat Spano is leaving to run for attorney general.

So far, thereís no clear sign of primary opposition to Wicker, although open legislative seats attract candidates. Colton Curry said heís considering both District 59 in 2018 and the District 57 seat Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Valrico, must vacate in 2020.

Democratic opposition is also an open question.

Rena Frazier, who won Democratic hearts with her 2016 District 59 race, wonít run again.

Gail Gottlieb, who lost to Spano by less than 2 points in 2012, now lives in the Washington, D.C., area but said sheís considering moving back to her long-time Brandon home to run.

Wicker, who lost narrowly to Spano in the 2012 primary, is 39, an Atlanta native, married with two young children, and lives in Dover.

Heís a former Army tank platoon commander and veteran of two Iraqi deployments. He moved to east Hillsborough in 2008 after active duty to work for International Paper, then bought a home health business he and his wife run.

Heís a Republican precinct representative and former member of the county commissionersí Citizens Advisory Committee.

Joe Citro first to file for Tampa City Council

Civic activist Joe Citro is the first candidate to file for a 2019 Tampa City Council race ó the citywide seat now held by term-limited Mike Suarez.

Itís Citroís fourth try for a council seat, in a race likely to attract candidates. Those he could face include council veteran John Dingfelder, who intends to run for a seat and said heís leaning toward a citywide race.

Contact William March at [email protected]