Florida’s new second-in-command began work on Monday. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is the state’s 19th lieutenant governor and first Latino to hold that office.
The 40-year-old Lopez-Cantera -- a former state legislator and Miami-Dade Property Appraiser -- was sworn in by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston in a small, private ceremony held in the governor's office. A public swearing-in was held Monday afternoon.
As part of his remarks, Lopez-Cantera recited some of the talking points he and Governor Rick Scott will carry onto the campaign trail this year.
“Unemployment down to 6.2% from 11.1, 462,000 new jobs in the state,” said Lopez-Cantera. “A state that paid down over $3 billion, and now going into this upcoming legislative session, looking forward to being a part of the team that cuts $500 million in taxes and gives it back to….the citizens of this great state.”
As the first Hispanic Lt. Governor Lopez-Cantera – who is fluent in Spanish – is also expected to help the Scott re-election campaign with the Spanish-speaking media. Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, says he’ll serve as a bridge to Latinos -- who make up the fastest-growing segment of the Florida electorate.
“Republicans have known for quite some time the need to outreach more to the Hispanic communities,” McManus said. “It was very, very shrewd of the Governor. Long gone in Florida are the days when you can have two white males on a Governor-Lt. Governor ticket.”
It’s help that the Governor appears to need. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Scott trailing former Governor and former Republican Charlie Crist – who’s seeking the Democratic nomination – leads Scott 46-38 percent. Crist faces a primary challenge from Nan Rich – a former Senate Minority Leader.
“Floridians are ready for new leadership not based on personality, but rather on long-held principles and a clear set of priorities,” Rich said. “And I stand here today not on platitudes or a pile of money. I stand here on principles, Democratic principles.”
The race is sure to tighten over the next nine months, especially when Republicans start spending tens of millions of dollars depicting Crist as unfit to govern. McManus says the governor’s race will be a “high-profile slugfest” going beyond the state line.
If Charlie Crist defeats Nan Rich for the Democratic nomination, McManus predicts that he’ll follow Scott’s lead in diversifying the party’s ticket, perhaps with an African-American, either a man or a woman.
The Quinnipiac poll also finds that 53 percent of respondents approved of the job Charlie Crist did as governor. Rick Scott’s approval rating was 41 percent.