What if Charlie Crist wins?Florida Atlantic University board members might want to think that one through before they hand George LeMieux the keys to the kingdom.
Though the board is due to choose the university's new president from a three-candidate shortlist Friday, insiders tell Sunshine State News the selection might already be in the bag for Gunster lawyerLeMieux. There's been a whole lot of hardscrabble lobbying going on.
Maybe. It's hard to tell when nobody wants to talk on the record.So I'm just going to finishwhat I startedlast week when I described the LeMieux who was one sleazy step from the slammer. And I'm going to do it by crawling through the long tunnel of background, no-name comments SSN got this week -- and urge board members to carefully consider the dangers of choosing square-peg George LeMieux for FAU's round hole.
Much of the problem isn't a matter of rumor, it's history.
LeMieux pulled a fast one on Charlie Crist. It's documented.
Former Sen. George LeMieux didn't coast to his seat in the Senate. He was appointed by Charlie Crist -- an appointment he campaigned ferociously for.
In the story, former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp described LeMieux's ruthlessness. "He really wanted to do it (get the Senate appointment). So he was going to do everything he could," he told the Herald. "He really, really wanted to do it."
To get the Senate appointment, LeMieux scammed his boss. Made a fool out of him. As the story goes, Crist told both Kottkamp and University of North Florida President John Delaney that they would be picked for the spot. But LeMieux launched an aggressive campaign that included an anonymous, phonied-up website attacking Delaney. Crist saw it, turned his back on other suitors for the position and focused his attention on LeMieux.
Oh, and it wasn't just Delaney and Kottkamp LeMieux managed to kick in the teeth. According to the Herald, "Every time speculation would center on a perceived front-runner, negative information or criticism of that candidate would surface, invariably fueled by allies of LeMieux."
Just as it is now, by the way -- as LeMieux angles to get the FAU appointment. How do I know? Because Sunshine State News got a "tip" ("Can't use my name") that another FAU finalist was hiding a DUI. But guess what? The DUI wasn't a DUI after all, it turned into a stop for reckless driving. (The tipster still calls, urging SSN to write about it anyway.)
Crist knows his former campaign manager, chief of staff and confidante duped him -- some say, even extorted the Senate appointment out of him. One Republican insider told me, "If you think Charlie Crist isn't vengeful, you don't know Charlie. Boy, wouldn't he just love a crack at his old buddy." Said another, "Charlie will make it part of his agenda to chew off a little piece of George LeMieux every day."
But if you think that's too much ancient history, that Crist won't carry a grudge, wait, there's more.
In 2010, spurned as John Delaney was, he supported Charlie Crist right to the end. Even when Crist left the Republican Party. Charlies a friend and that makes it kind of simple, Delaney said.
But LeMieux? Support to the end? Not on your nellie. He turned on his old pal like bad milk. Instead of backing quietly away when Crist jumped ship, LeMieux hopped on the campaign train of Crist's chief rival, Marco Rubio -- then he issued a press release and accepted interviews.
LeMieux told SSN reporter Allison Nielsen earlier this week that he isn't worried. He said he expects Crist would "act professional" in their dealings if he returns to office.
I don't know, FAU, do you? By all accounts except LeMieux's, there's bad blood between these old friends. Do you really want to take the chance that LeMieux's past won't jump up and bite the university?
Remember, it's the governor who appoints board members within the university system. If elected, Crist could replace all 13 FAU members with his own if he wanted. He could plant a handful of troublemakers. He could lift up the phone and in Democratic South Florida impede President LeMieux and FAU goals in a dozen different ways. If he wanted.
So, I repeat, FAU: Are you sure you want to take that chance -- for a man who pursues a university presidency with the ruthlessness of a city hall party boss?
With so much at stake there are just too many people who should be talking freely and on the record, in and on behalf of an open university, yet they are afraid to. I find that incredulous.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.