Tampa Bay May Hold Rick Scott's Next Lieutenant Governor
Around the State
Rick Scott has some thinking to do as names drop off his short list to be Florida’s next lieutenant governor, leaving two Tampa Bay Republicans in the mix.
Last week, Scott’s team released the short list of possible candidates: Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, St. Johns County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Joyner, state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman. Eslinger and and Joyner have already said they have no interest in the job, leaving only Lee and Murman.
It’s not the most impressive of short lists but the lieutenant governorship hasn’t exactly helped Florida politicians over the years. Only a handful of lieutenant governors have been able to overcome the obscurity of the position and there’s a reason most politicians have gone out of their way to avoid it.
Still, the two remaining candidates would help Scott in a key region and are both qualified for the job. They’ve both served in the legislative leadership and are proven winners in the always important Tampa Bay region.
Nobody can deny Lee’s credentials for the job. A former state Senate president, Lee ran against Alex Sink in 2006 to become state CFO. Bouncing back to the Senate in 2012 after a nasty primary against Rachel Burgin, Lee has set his eyes on becoming Senate president again. It’s easy to forget since he’s been prominent in Tallahassee since the mid-1990s but Lee is only 51.
Lee is a safe pick for Scott, to say the least. Having been on the political stage for so long, Lee should avoid gaffes and the missteps that plagued Jennifer Carroll. Hailing from Hillsborough County, Lee should help Scott in the voter-rich Tampa Bay area. Getting Lee out of the Senate could help avoid a future leadership battle and help ensure a bit more tranquility in the GOP caucus.
But if Lee is a safe pick, he is far from a glamorous one. Scott is behind in the polls and, while he has closed the gap in recent weeks, he trails Charlie Crist in the polls. Lee would do next to nothing to help Scott close the gap on Crist or expand the playing field.
Murman might be a better choice politically but it would be hard to classify her as a game-changer. Still, her credentials are in order and she should avoid the pitfalls that ensnared Carroll.
A longtime community activist, Murman also hails from the Tampa Bay region and, like Lee, has been part of the legislative leadership. Elected to the Florida House back in 1996, Murman moved up the ranks and become House speaker pro tempore. In 2010, she was elected to the County Commission.
Both possibilities should help Scott more than they hurt his chances for a second term, though neither will shift the odds in his favor. Winning elections for more than 20 years in Seminole County, Eslinger could have also helped Scott. Joyner was probably the riskiest pick and frankly the GOP did not need to focus on Republican-rich St. Johns County.
Neither Lee nor Murman is a game changer of course but either of them should help Scott as he heads into 2014. More importantly, both of them could lead the state if something happens to the governor.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.