Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Rick Scott's new lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, is sworn in

TALLAHASSEE — Carlos Lopez-Cantera's first day as Florida lieutenant governor was like the job itself, with lots of style and not much substance.

The former Miami-Dade legislator and property appraiser, who ended Gov. Rick Scott's long search for a new No. 2, took the oath of office in a brief, private ceremony Monday in Scott's office in the Capitol. The oath was administered by Judge Joseph Lewis Jr., chief judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal.

"I'm very proud to be part of the governor's team," Lopez-Cantera said at a brief news conference with a smiling Scott standing nearby.

Lopez-Cantera has quickly mastered the governor's main talking points. He cited the drop in Florida's unemployment rate, creation of new jobs and the paying down of more than $3 billion in state debt.

As for a Quinnipiac University poll last week that said 54 percent of voters do not want Scott to be re-elected, Lopez-Cantera said: "The results matter, and when the citizens see that, I think they'll agree that this governor has done a great job."

Scott said Lopez-Cantera's chief responsibility would be to secure passage of $500 million in fee and tax cuts in the upcoming legislative session that begins March 4. That shouldn't take much work: Legislative leaders already have largely endorsed Scott's two-pronged plan of a rollback of auto tag fees to pre-2009 levels and a small cut in the sales tax businesses pay on rents.

"He's going to be a great partner. We're going to have a great year running together," Scott said.

Scott appointed the 40-year-old Lopez-Cantera on Jan. 14, ending a 10-month vacancy in the office following the resignation of Jennifer Carroll last March.

Lopez-Cantera is Florida's 19th lieutenant governor and the first Hispanic to hold the office. His ability to speak Spanish will help the Scott administration to communicate a message more effectively in Spanish-language media, but Lopez-Cantera missed such an opportunity on Monday.

He ignored two pleas from a TV crew that he make a statement in Spanish and followed Scott inside the mansion for a luncheon.

About 40 political leaders, family and friends joined the new lieutenant governor for a celebratory lunch of saffron paella, braised chicken, shrimp and warm cajeta bread pudding. Lopez-Cantera and his wife, Renee, kept a close eye on their daughters Sabrina and Sofia. A baby stroller sat nearby.

"This is the beginning of a great partnership," said House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Along with legislative leaders, several lobbyists attended, including Dean Cannon, the former House speaker who appointed Lopez-Cantera majority leader; Chris Moya, a longtime friend and political strategist who worked on Lopez-Cantera's House races; and Bill Rubin, a Scott ally who quietly promoted Lopez-Cantera's candidacy as a bridge to Hispanic voters.

Among the few Democrats present was Sen. Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens, who said his family and Lopez-Cantera's are longtime friends.

Braynon discounted the possibility that Lopez-Cantera would help Scott win re-election.

"I don't think it really matters who he picked," Braynon said. "No matter what happens, he (Scott) has to run on his own record."

By law, the lieutenant governor has no specific duties except to take the place of a governor who is incapacitated.

Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, has filed a bill, SB 756, that would require the governor to give the lieutenant governor oversight of a specific state agency — an idea Lopez-Cantera did not want to discuss Monday.

"This is Day 1," he said. "Today's about the announcement. Today's about being sworn in."

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

Comments
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 4 hours ago
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17