Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday gave Carlos Lopez-Cantera a late 40th birthday gift, naming him the state’s new lieutenant governor. Lopez-Cantera replaces Jennifer Carroll, who resigned ten months ago.
Lopez-Cantera is no stranger to Tallahassee. Before his election as Miami-Dade Property Appraiser in 2012, he served eight years in the House. Lopez-Cantera chaired the Business Regulation and Government Affairs Committees, and was Majority Whip and then Majority Leader. Scott says Lopez-Cantera’s political connections were key to his choice.
When he takes office February 3, Lopez-Cantera will be the state’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor. Observers say he’ll serve as a bridge to Hispanics -- who make up the fastest-growing segment of the Florida electorate – during the 2014 election season.
Jennifer Carroll – Florida’s first African-American Lt. Governor -- resigned in March after an organization for which her company consulted was named in an illegal gambling investigation. She was not charged with any wrongdoing.
If former Governor Charlie Crist’s Democratic conversion is complete and he wins that party’s gubernatorial nomination, University of South Florida political scientist Susan McManus predicts that he’ll follow Scott’s lead in rounding out the ticket.
“My guess is that Charlie Crist will pick either an African-American or a female,” says McManus. “He could very well pick Nan Rich, who is very popular with a lot of Democratic women, especially. But, it could also be an African-American. I definitely think that Charlie Crist, if he’s the nominee, will not select another white male.”
Nan Rich currently is Crist’s opponent in the August Democratic primary. Charlie Crist has led Gov. Scott in some of the early polls, and if he is nominated, USF’s Susan McManus says the governor’s race will be a high-profile “slugfest” in the national media.
McManus says too much negativity helped tamp down voter turnout in Florida in 2012. She believes that will lead the gubernatorial candidates to weigh just how much is too much. But that said, she warns that negative ads from both camps will nevertheless be coming to a media platform near you.