Rubio and lieutenant governor vulnerable for missing work

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If you've lived in Florida awhile, you may recall how then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist skewered his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa, for constantly missing votes while running for governor.

"Jim Davis: If he doesn't show up for work now, why should we elect him governor?" asked one TV ad for Crist, whom critics would later dub "Empty Chair Charlie" for keeping such a light schedule as governor.

It looks like that attendance issue is resurfacing in a big way this election cycle.

Democrats are hammering Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a likely candidate for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, for ignoring his day job, while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is facing similar scrutiny.

Rubio has been so busy running for president, he has missed nearly 8 percent of all roll call votes — one of the three worst records in the Senate — according to GovTrack.us, a government transparency site. That's better than fellow presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, who has missed nearly 11 percent, but worse than another presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, who has missed 3 percent.

"I don't care whether a governor or a senator, if they currently hold elective office and they have full-time responsibilities and duties then they should carry those out. If they want another job, then they should leave that (current) job," said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another presidential candidate, while at Disney World last week.

He never mentioned anybody by name, but he did not have to.

"I was a governor 10½ years. That's a full-time job. … It is a 24/7/365 kind of job. I don't think, having been a candidate and having been a governor, that I could do both very effectively, and that's probably the same for senator," Huckabee said.

It might be easy to say the same thing about Florida's lieutenant governor, except nobody really knows what that job entails anyway. It's not spelled out in law, and based on Lopez-Cantera's official schedule, the $124,000 job doesn't involve doing much of anything.

The lieutenant governor's calendar between May 5 and June 5 listed six days with any official duty scheduled. "NO SCHEDULED EVENTS" were listed for 18 of those 24 workdays.

Lopez-Cantera has not announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate but, much like Jeb Bush, he already has a Super PAC in place to raise unlimited contributions for a campaign.

Reporters asked Gov. Rick Scott last week if he thought his lieutenant governor should step down if he decides to run for Senate. Scott said that would be up to Lopez-Cantera.

Quotes of the week

"I didn't think I was going to be back up here again because frankly, I thought Jeb was just going to suck all the air out of the room, and it just hasn't happened." That's Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another potential presidential candidate, explaining why he was visiting New Hampshire last week.

"I had no idea how much media there would be." That's Gov. Scott on what surprised him most about serving as governor.

Where Bush will visit

Jeb Bush will begin a tour of early primary states on June 16, the day after he formally announces he is running for president in Miami.

He'll go first to Derry, N.H, then visit Pella, Iowa, on June 17; then Charleston, S.C., on June 18; and Henderson, Nev., on June 26, his campaign said. His son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, will be in Las Vegas on June 17.

Walker less than clear

Scott Walker said he adamantly opposes a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, but was vague in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times about what should be done with the 11 million people already in the United States.

"My belief is that because the system is so broken, we need to do the other things I mention before we can even begin to start talking about what the president and the next Congress can do," Walker said, referring to his call for more border security and enforcement of existing law. "Until we deal with those other issues, any potential solution is largely irrelevant."

Walker's comments continued an uneven response to the vexing issue of immigration since he emerged as a presidential hopeful. The Wisconsin governor once supported a path to citizenship, but earlier this year veered to the right, then backed off a bit. The shifting positions have left many to wonder what exactly does he think should be done.

"I said I was opposed to the Gang of 8, so I never said I supported that," Walker said in an interview.

In 2013, Rubio and seven other senators worked out a comprehensive bill, which would have added billions in more security spending while providing an eventual pathway to citizenship. (Rubio has backed away from his own legislation but still supports citizenship.)

"It's left up to the next president and Congress," Walker said of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Sign up for the Daily Buzz on Florida politics at tampabay.com/enews.

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