After 10 months of going it alone at the Capitol, Gov. Rick Scott has found a lieutenant governor: veteran of the Legislature and current Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera. The position had been vacant since March when Jennifer Carroll resigned after her name was linked with a federal probe of Internet gambling.
Sources told Sunshine State News Lopez-Cantera -- known informally as "CLC" -- met on Sunday with Scott Chief of Staff Adam Hollingsworth, the governor offered CLC the position and he accepted. He beat out other Republicans who had been considered, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.
None of the three sources would speak for attribution, but all said they expect Scott to make the formal announcement Tuesday in Miami.
Expecting a tough battle in November, Lopez-Cantera makes sense politically for Scott in terms of a running mate in November and as the point man for his legislative agenda. While he is a political veteran, Lopez-Cantera is still fairly young for one of the leading politicians in the state. He just turned 40, has close ties to the current crop of legislative leaders from his time as House majority leader from 2010-2012.
One Miami-Dade political adviser told Sunshine State News in December, "Carlos would bring the heart of the Hispanic community about a foot from the ear of the most powerful man in the state. He would work hard for the governor in the Miami community, which frankly the GOP needs to energize fast, like, yesterday."
Though born in Spain, Lopez-Cantera grew up in Miami-Dade. He has deep roots in the community, with lifelong ties to the area, including pursuing higher education at Miami-Dade Community College and the University of Miami.
Despite coming up short in 2002 when he ran for the Florida House, Lopez-Cantera has won every election hes faced. If Scott wants to make up ground in populous Miami-Dade, where his poll numbers have generally been low, Lopez-Cantera can only help. Besides winning his four terms in the Florida House, he won his current post as Miami-Dade property appraiser.
Political insiders throughout the GOP ranks claim Lopez-Cantera could help Republicans recapture Hispanic voters, the key block of voters that slipped away in 2012.
Still, few Floridians will cast their ballots based on who the lieutenant governor candidate is. Whatever his political strengths, and they are many, Lopez-Cantera could help Scott more when it comes to pushing his agenda.
First working for the Senate Criminal Justice Committee back in 1997, during his time in the House, Lopez-Cantera impressively moved up the ladder. During his third term, Lopez-Cantera was GOP whip. In his last term, he served as majority leader. Lopez-Cantera also was in solid shape with the large Miami-Dade delegation. Twice his colleagues named him delegation chairman.
Lopez-Cantera could also help Scott reinforce his image as a job creator. As the Panama Canal expansion project nears completion, the Port of Miami is set to be the hub for major economic growth. Lopez-Cantera has been a strong supporter of readying the port for the canal expansion and would be ready to argue that job creation, which has grown under Scott, will continue.
While nobody casts their votes due to who Floridas lieutenant governor is, Lopez-Cantera should be able help Scotts chances for a second term. More importantly, the Miami-Dade Republican could lead the state if something happens to the governor.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson writes exclusively for Sunshine State News. Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.