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Florida's next lieutenant governor needs to try harder

So who needs a lieutenant governor, anyway?

Obviously not Rick Scott. The "jobs governor" is in no hurry to fill this job.

Jennifer Carroll, destined to be the answer to an obscure trivia question, has left town after resigning amid ties to an FDLE investigation, and Scott says he'll leave her job vacant until at least May.

Will anyone notice?

Carroll's resignation has stirred fresh talk about whether a job with no specified duties in state law is necessary, and whether its $125,000-a-year salary might be put to better use. Ironically, a case for the job can be made in the next few weeks of the legislative session, when a lieutenant governor might be needed most.

Florida abolished the position in 1889 after the term of Milton Mabry of Tampa, the father of famed aviator Dale Mabry.

For the next 80 years, Florida had no No. 2 and the state survived. When Gov. Dan McCarty died in office in 1953, Senate President Charley Johns took over until voters wisely elected LeRoy Collins governor.

In 1968, voters adopted a modern Constitution that re-created the job, and the first new occupant also hailed from Tampa Bay. Ray Osborne, a House member from St. Petersburg, was chosen by Gov. Claude Kirk on Jan. 7, 1969.

You may not recognize Osborne's name because he didn't disgrace the office.

Gov. Reubin Askew jettisoned Lt. Gov. Tom Adams, who was caught using state employees to tend to his farm and was replaced by Jim Williams of Ocala in 1974.

In 1978, Bob Graham chose the countrified Wayne Mixson of Marianna, who reassured upstate "Crackers" that Graham wasn't just a rich liberal guy from Miami. Eager to get to the U.S. Senate near the end of his term, Graham resigned and Mixson became governor for three days.

Bob Martinez chose one of the few Republican officeholders who supported him: a House member named Bobby Brantley, who didn't work out for various reasons, including (by his own admission) a wandering eye and a lack of finesse in dealing with lawmakers. He was replaced on the ticket by Allison deFoor, but Martinez lost to Lawton Chiles in 1990.

Chiles chose Buddy MacKay, one of the two most active modern lieutenant governors, who juggled a range of duties, including helping Miami recover from bankruptcy. MacKay became governor in 1998 when Chiles died in his final month in office.

Jeb Bush had running mate issues. His first choice, Tom Feeney in 1994, was viewed as too much of a hard-line conservative, and Secretary of State Sandy Mortham, his first choice in 1998, quit the ticket amid controversy in her office. Bush then chose two of the better ones: Frank Brogan, a respected school superintendent who resigned midterm to become president of Florida Atlantic University, and Toni Jennings, a capable two-term Senate president.

Then came Jeff Kottkamp, Charlie Crist's No. 2, whose excessive use of a state airplane gave the office a black eye for a time.

Which brings us to L.G. No. 10 in the modern era, Carroll. She was forced to resign two weeks ago after a veterans' charity that once employed her marketing company was linked to a racketeering investigation of illegal gambling.

All in all, an imperfect 10.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Florida's next lieutenant governor needs to try harder 03/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 7:42pm]
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