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Rick Scott unveils identity of new lieutenant governor after ten month vacancy

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January 15, 2014

By Maresa Strano

Florida
Rick Scott has at last found “the one,” to replace his former lieutenant and 2010 running-mate, Jennifer Carroll, who resigned in March 2013.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida: Florida Governor Rick Scott has announced that retired state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will be the state's 19th lieutenant governor and first Hispanic lieutenant governor, effective February 3, 2014.[1] Lopez-Cantera's appointment was revealed on January 14, 2014, signaling the state government to commence clearing away the cobwebs which have served as placeholders for the office since its previous occupant, Jennifer Carroll, made her unscheduled exit on March 12, 2013.[2]

A former Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 113th District from 2004 to 2012 and serving as House Majority Leader his final term, Lopez-Cantera is fluent in Spanish and has been called "media savvy."[2] As Scott gears up for a hotly-anticipated re-election battle this year, his camp hopes that Lopez-Cantera's partnership on the 2014 ticket will help Scott win over enough voters from Florida's rapidly-expanding Hispanic population to push him into a second term.

Before being tapped for the lieutenant governor job in 2014, Lopez-Cantera was serving as the property appraiser for Miami-Dade county, an elected position.[1]

Weeks before Scott picked Lopez-Cantera, a lawsuit was filed with the Florida Supreme Court asking the state’s preeminent legal body to force Scott to appoint a new lieutenant governor, citing Article 4, Section 3 of the constitution, which gives the Lieutenant Governor authority to act in place of the Governor if he/she is incapacitated or unable to deal with a state emergency.[3] "This is not a duty that the governor can choose to undertake when he feels like it,” argued the woman who filed the suit, Barbara Devane.[4]

While the Florida Constitution states that in the event that the lieutenant governor’s office becomes vacant, the Governor “shall” appoint someone else, it does not specify a timeline or conditions for carrying out that appointment process.[3][5] As of January 6, when the suit was filed, Scott’s only decisive move to address the vacancy since Carroll's resignation last March had been to shut down the lieutenant governor's office, apparently as a way to save the state money.[6][7] Shortly after Carroll’s departure, Scott indicated he had plans to appoint a lieutenant governor when the legislative session was over, in May 2013, but nothing materialized.[4]

Beyond the constitutional complexities of the situation, Scott’s reluctance to treat it in a timely fashion reflected the depth of the commitment involved in his selection. The governor's pregnant demurral to naming Carroll’s replacement was motivated by the need to find an individual who could serve the needs of his re-election campaign as much as the immediate needs of the lieutenant governor's office.

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