Thursday, May 24, 2018
Politics

History predicts obscurity for Florida's new lieutenant governor

TALLAHASSEE — Carlos Lopez-Cantera is at the peak of his political career, but for the next few years, he may be headed for political obscurity.

That's what usually happens to lieutenant governors in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott chose Lopez-Cantera, the Miami-Dade County property appraiser and a former state House majority leader, after leaving the office vacant for nearly a year, providing fresh evidence that the job is not essential to state government.

"It's required in the state Constitution," Scott said. "I think he's going to be a great addition."

The pick is being well-received, but it looks transparently political, despite claims by Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, that the new No. 2 would be a steward of Scott's agenda of jobs and tax cuts.

He's from Miami-Dade, the state's largest county.

He's Hispanic, a symbol of a growing segment of the state's electorate who adds diversity to the ticket at a time when many Hispanics are estranged from the Republican Party over immigration and other issues. "I love the fact he's Hispanic," Scott said.

He's a former lawmaker, known for his determined skills at counting votes and arm-twisting. Scott has had mixed results with legislators, and Lopez-Cantera, 40, can help shepherd Scott's priorities through the Capitol in a pivotal election year.

When he is sworn in Feb. 3, Lopez-Cantera will be Florida's 11th lieutenant governor since voters revived the position in 1968 after nearly a century.

The consensus is that Scott made a politically wise selection, but that it won't make a difference with voters who will choose a governor in November.

"You can only hurt yourself with a lieutenant governor," said J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, who was chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Martinez. "A lieutenant governor is more likely to hurt you than help you."

Stipanovich knows. He and Martinez were forced to jettison Bobby Brantley from the GOP ticket in 1990 for political and personal reasons. They likely would have lost anyway to Democrat Lawton Chiles and his running mate, Buddy MacKay, who became one of the two most influential lieutenant governors in the modern era. (The other was former Senate President Toni Jennings, who partnered with former Gov. Jeb Bush.)

"Demographically and politically, it was a good pick (by Scott). They've been hemorrhaging votes in the Hispanic community," said Screven Watson, a former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. "If they lose votes there, they're doomed and they know it."

Lopez-Cantera has little history of being a fan of Scott, who came out of nowhere to win the governorship in 2010, largely by spending more than $70 million of his personal fortune.

That year, Lopez-Cantera backed Scott's Republican opponent, former Attorney General Bill McCollum, and at a GOP unity rally in Sweetwater, urged Scott to name a Hispanic as his running mate.

Instead, Scott chose an African-American woman, former Rep. Jennifer Carroll, who was forced to resign last March when it was revealed that she once did work for a veterans' charity linked to a broad criminal probe of illegal gambling.

Carroll was not accused of any wrongdoing, but she had already become estranged from Scott over other issues.

Lopez-Cantera also criticized Scott for wanting to cut $1.3 billion from public schools in his first year in office, and first supported, then opposed, an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigrants that Scott backed as a candidate in 2010.

The 2011 bill, HB 7089, unleashed a furor as immigrant rights activists camped out at Lopez-Cantera's offices in Miami and Tallahassee. It ultimately did not pass, and Scott has said next to nothing about immigration since.

The lieutenant governor of Florida gets a salary of $124,800, a nice office in the Capitol, a staff of three, a full-time state Highway Patrol trooper escort, and no specific duties prescribed by law.

Some lieutenant governors who made headlines usually did so for the wrong reasons. Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew severed ties with Tom Adams in the early 1970s after Adams was found using state workers to tend to a personal farm.

In the early 1980s, then-Gov. Bob Graham's No. 2, Wayne Mixson, groused publicly over being shut out of decisions and threatened to bolt from the ticket. (He didn't; they won.)

"It made me furious that I was not even consulted on appointments," Mixson was quoted as saying in a 1981 UPI article.

Longtime Florida political writer Brian Crowley blogged that the job of lieutenant governor is a "jinx," because every one who has sought higher office has failed. Crowley also noted that the job is highly confining because it does not allow for any public disagreement with the governor.

"Florida's LGs are often unhappy people," Crowley wrote.

Now that Scott has chosen Lopez-Cantera, his likely fall opponent, Charlie Crist, must find a running mate. Political strategists say his choice won't matter much, either — in part because many voters will have strong opinions about the two candidates for governor.

"I don't think it matters, and that holds true for Charlie's pick, too," Watson said. "This is going to be mano-a-mano, Rick Scott versus Charlie Crist. That's what matters."

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Updated: 9 hours ago
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18