Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, named his leadership team Tuesday -- tapping Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, as president pro tempore, while Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, was selected to serve as Republican leader.
"My senior leadership team has a tremendous amount of experience serving the people of Florida, said Haridopolos. Florida faces serious challenges and we need proven leaders to guide us through these difficult times. Im pleased to have Sens. Bennett and Gardiner as members of my leadership team, and like me, theyll have one primary focus helping get Floridas economy back on track.
A member of the Senate since first being elected in 2002, Bennett represents portions of Charlotte, DeSoto, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties. If he wins confirmation by the Senate, Bennett will replace current President Pro Tempore Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.
Im pleased that Mike Bennett has agreed to serve as president pro tempore, said Haridopolos. He has the respect of the entire Senate and is known for bringing a common-sense business approach to government. I trust and value his counsel.
Bennett and Haridopolos have worked closely on issues before, including taking aim at government waste.
But Bennett has broken with conservatives on a number of issues, including being one of four Republicans in the Senate who opposed a measure requiring women considering abortion to have an ultrasound.
Conservative leaders across Florida expressed dismay over Haridopolos selecting Bennett as his understudy.
The president has certainly picked a No. 2 man who does not reflect his core values on one of the most important issues, said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council.
Stemberger added that he hopes Bennett will not help undermine any pro-life legislation in the Senate. Stemberger predicted earlier in the month that the ultrasound measure, vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist, will return in 2011.
Taking over as majority leader from term-limited Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, Gardiner moves up from the position of majority whip. Gardiner, who represents parts of Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, was elected to the Senate in 2008 but served eight years in the House, including a stint as majority leader.
Andy Gardiner is the ideal person to lead the 28-member Republican caucus, said Haridopolos. This is the largest majority caucus in nearly 25 years. Senator Gardiners previous experience in the House will help him ensure the Republican majority is organized and ready to work for the people of Florida.
Gardiner was the sponsor of the ultrasound measure that Bennett opposed.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.