Gov. Rick Scott's top adviser says the search for Florida's next lieutenant governor is moving ahead slowly and privately with the focus on finding someone who can be "a steward of the governor's vision and character."
In his most detailed comments on the subject to date, chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth said the only two people engaged in discussions about the subject are himself and the governor. Speculation beyond that is just that, he said, calling it "an interesting parlor game" in Tallahassee. The job of lieutenant governor, reinstituted in 1968 after a long absence, has no specific duties prescribed by law.
"Ultimately, it's a stewardship decision," said Hollingsworth, who's directing the search process at Scott's request. "The single most important criteria for a lieutenant governor is someone who, God forbid, would be capable of performing the functions of governor if that were required."
Hollingsworth said there's no timetable for a decision. "There's no reason to set a deadline," he said. "We're going to take the right time to pick the right person."
He says the search will focus on finding someone who has "the same policy mind-set as the governor, has the same vision for moving Florida forward, and would do it with an integrity that is consistent with the governor's character." He insists there's no "short list" of potential picks and declined to get into a discussion of names.
Scott is not required to pick a lieutenant governor until next September. But he will need to move faster than that if he envisions a political partner who can help him on the campaign trail. For now, the delay serves Scott's interests, as he waits to see how the Democratic field of gubernatorial candidates shapes up. Plus, if his poll numbers (and likelihood of winning re-election) improve, the appeal of the job will escalate, creating a wider pool of candidates.
Hollingsworth says he's prepared for what he called the "color commentary" of politicians, pundits and lobbyists offering opinions of potential successors to Jennifer Carroll, who resigned March 12. "It could become a distraction if it's not managed properly," he said.
'Sexist name calling'
The Republican Party of Florida has fired off a bunch of releases recently referring to Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant as TANT RANT. On Wednesday, the state GOP sent releases referring to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as "Debbie Dunce."
"What exactly is the Republican Party of Florida's problem with female politicians? From 'Debbie Dunce' to 'Tant Rant,' Lenny Curry and the RPOF has repeatedly attacked women in language that they would never use for a man," said Tant. "This is mudslinging of the lowest order. Attempting to discredit female leaders by referring to them as 'ranting' or attacking their intelligence is offensive at best and sexist at worst. When the Florida GOP keeps resorting to juvenile and sexist name calling, it's hard to take their outreach to women seriously."
In 24 hours, the Democratic Party said, more than 6,000 had signed a petition calling on "the Florida GOP and Chairman Lenny Curry to apologize for his and his organization's repeated sexist remarks."
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, has already said he wouldn't change "one damn comma" of "stand your ground," a comment that left critics wondering if they'll get a fair shake when the committee Gaetz is chairman of holds a hearing on the self-defense law.
Now this: Gaetz will host a conference call that is being promoted as a strategy session ahead of the hearing. "All Republican, tea party, 9/12 groups" are invited to join the call, giving critics another reason to question whether Gaetz really intends to oversee an honest review.
"If he's the chairman, he's supposed to be fair and balanced and open," said Rep. Alan Williams, a Tallahassee Democrat who filed legislation to repeal "stand your ground."
Gaetz said he is listening to both sides.
"I encounter people every day who have a viewpoint, and most folks aren't shy about sharing it with me," Gaetz said.
Clark against purge
Pinellas County elections supervisor Deborah Clark said she won't participate in Gov. Scott's latest effort to purge ineligible voters from the rolls, because she doesn't trust the state's ability to avoid picking off eligible voters.
Never in her 13 years as elections chief has she seen a case of voter fraud, she says in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. The Republican also discusses the St. Petersburg mayoral race, the rise of absentee voting and more.
Tia Mitchell contributed to this week's Buzz.