Gov. Rick Scott plans a ‘major announcement tomorrow’ with all signs pointing to his naming a new lieutenant governor.
Scott said he will unveil his choice via Facebook. But he also has scheduled a Department of Children & Families budget event in Miami — home to Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state House member seen as a likely choice.
Scott’s office posted the comment “Be the first to know who the lieutenant governor will be” on his official Facebook page Monday evening. The Florida Republican Party quickly tweeted a link to the page.
Lopez-Cantera, 40, became property appraiser last year after serving eight years in the state House, the last two years as majority leader. Born in Spain, Lopez-Cantera initially rose in influence in the House under former Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, now a U.S. senator.
While touted by Miami-Dade Republican activists as a Scott running mate, Lopez-Cantera remained for months out of favor with Scott’s chief-of-staff, Adam Hollingsworth, who also was angling for the lieutenant governor’s job.
But Hollingsworth’s star has dimmed since he acknowledged last month having falsely claimed a college degree while working for a former employer.
Besides, having an Hispanic as his running mate could help Scott with a powerful voting bloc that so far seems cool to the Republican governor. A Quinnipiac University poll in November showed Scott trailing Democrat Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, by 7 percentage points among all voters — but down 15 percentage points to Crist among Hispanic voters.
Scott’s first lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, was the first black to serve in that role. But she was forced out of the administration last March for having earlier worked as a consultant to a charity operating internet cafes criminally accused of skimming cash. The Legislature soon after outlawed internet cafes and many of the leading figures in the investigation have been convicted or pleaded guilty to running a wide-ranging criminal enterprise.
Since then, a host of possible replacements have been mentioned — some by the governor’s office, which acknowledged having prepared a short-list. Still, many of those cited by the governor’s office quickly took themselves out of the running.
Among them were Orange County schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, St. Johns County schools Superintendent Joseph Joyner and Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman have been interviewed by the governor’s representatives, and Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, also loomed last fall as a possible lieutenant governor choice.
Scott, though, showed few signs of being hurried with his choice. Last week, Tallahassee Democratic activist Barbara DeVane filed a lawsuit in the Florida Supreme Court maintaining that Scott is breaking state law by not having a lieutenant governor.
For his part, Lopez-Cantera has been a Scott loyalist, even in a Florida House that at times has tussled with the governor and his priorities. After a rough start with lawmakers, Scott by his second year in office won praised from Lopez-Cantera in 2012 for his tax-cut plans and his leadership.
“It’s not too much, not too little. I think it’s just right. Like The Three Bears,” Lopez-Cantera told the Palm Beach Post. “His influence and presence is just right.”