Steve Bousquet: Gov. Rick Scott's pick for lieutenant governor shows his insider status

When Rick Scott ran for governor in 2010, lobbyists in Tallahassee treated him as if he had an awful disease, and he responded in kind.

Scott seemed to enjoy being the skunk at a lawn party as the outsider who took on the insiders, but he had no choice. After stomping favored insider Bill McCollum in the GOP primary, Scott told his supporters: "The deal-makers are crying in their cocktails."

Such a contemptuous view of Tallahassee by a major statewide candidate was so refreshing, you knew it wouldn't last. It didn't.

Now, as he eyes re-election, Scott reaps the benefits of incumbency, including a steady flow of campaign contributions from lobbyists and their clients that is the single biggest ingredient in his plan to defeat Charlie Crist.

In other words, nobody's crying in Tallahassee.

One illustration of how things have changed is the reaction to Scott's choice of former Miami-Dade state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera as lieutenant governor.

He will be sworn in next Monday.

One of Lopez-Cantera's closest friends is Miami lobbyist Chris Moya, who was so proud of his friend's appointment that he issued a news release touting their friendship, praising Scott for recognizing diversity and predicting that it could make Hispanic votes the "tipping point" to secure Scott's re-election by narrowing the Democratic victory margin in Miami-Dade County.

Moya said the Republicans' courtship of Hispanic voters is terrible and is getting worse.

"We've been running the same campaign since 1984," he said. "Waving the Cuba flag. That's all we have."

Moya said Lopez-Cantera's ability to speak Spanish may be his biggest asset as Scott's running mate.

"There is no translator involved. No intermediary," Moya said. "He can go somewhere and speak directly to a community."

He and Lopez-Cantera became friends as volunteers in the successful 1996 campaign of Alex Penelas for mayor of Miami-Dade, he said. The office was officially nonpartisan but Penelas was a Democrat — proof, Moya said, of Lopez-Cantera's "centrist roots." (Take note, tea party Republicans).

Six years later, when Lopez-Cantera ran for public office the first time, Moya ran his campaign.

Lopez-Cantera lost that House race by about 700 votes to Julio Robaina, a well-known mayor of South Miami. He came back two years later and won, and worked his way up to House majority leader, a job suited to his ability to count votes and twist arms.

Not only is Moya a pal of Lopez-Cantera, but he earns a living as a lobbyist (AT&T, Charter Schools USA, Dosal Tobacco Corp., Seminole Tribe of Florida and State Farm, to name a few clients).

Moya, 37, a Miami native, has spent half his life around the Legislature. He's marketable because he is viewed as close to Hispanic legislators, and now his good friend occupies a choice office just a few feet from the governor's.

Cocktails, anyone?

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Steve Bousquet: Gov. Rick Scott's pick for lieutenant governor shows his insider status 01/27/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 27, 2014 6:51pm]

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