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  1. Florida Politics

Crist's lieutenant governor choice would cause outrage, if anyone cared

Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Annette Taddeo addresses supporters this month at a campaign rally in Orlando. At left is her running mate, gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist. [KATHLEEN McGRORY | Times/Herald]
Published Aug. 21, 2014

This column is (sort of) about outrage.

I say (sort of) because it's really a column about the duties of Florida's lieutenant governor, a topic leading scientists have actually discussed as an antidote to outrage.

If it will help, think of Florida's lieutenant governor as the fire extinguisher on the shelf in your garage. You don't want to be caught without it in case of emergency, but you could go years without ever remembering where you left it.

Which brings us to Charlie Crist. And Annette Taddeo. And the absence of outrage.

Last month, Crist introduced Taddeo as his choice for lieutenant governor. This led to a few smiles, a couple of back slaps and a lot of yawns.

Why?

Because this sort of announcement was entirely predictable. Between them, Crist and Taddeo ensured Democrats had all the basic food groups covered. Male/female. Anglo/Hispanic. Central Florida/South Florida.

The question of whether Taddeo was actually qualified was hardly discussed because, after all, it's just the lieutenant governor.

And yet, it kind of needs to be a big deal.

While the job's day-to-day impact is entirely at the discretion of the governor, there is one critical responsibility:

Being governor-in-waiting.

Should anything happen to the state's top executive, this is the person who will assume responsibility for running Florida.

And in the case of Taddeo, that means one of the largest states in the union could possibly be led by someone who has never before held a public office. In fact, someone who has lost the only two elections she's previously entered.

Taddeo, who runs a translation business, has been a top official and fundraiser in the party but has never led a large corporation.

"It's clear the pattern these days is to pick someone whose demographics balance the ticket, particularly in a diverse state," said noted University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus. "In this case, it's easy to do because there's been so much discussion in Florida about the lack of responsibilities for lieutenant governor.

"But in the case of a death or incapacitation, people are suddenly going to realize the importance of this position.''

So is this an indictment of Crist's judgment? An indication he is more interested in appearance than substance? It could certainly be interpreted that way, although this is a minor offense compared to, say, John McCain's vice presidential pick.

And to be fair, it's not like a gubernatorial candidate is going to be choosing from the cream of the crop. Around here, the lieutenant governor's job should probably come with a Dead End sign on the door.

But it has at least attracted experienced public servants in the past. There was a former U.S. congressman (Buddy MacKay), an education commissioner (Frank Brogan), a 20-year state senator (Toni Jennings) and a Florida secretary of state (Thomas Adams). Everyone else elected in the past 40 years had previously held office.

Of course, the opposite argument is that residents are fed up with lifelong politicians and are eager to welcome fresh faces to Tallahassee.

As a matter of fact, the last winner of the governor's race in Florida also came from the business sector and never before held public office.

And look how well that's worked.

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