The news from Tallahassee last week hit Florida like a hurricane: Republican Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the Sunshine State’s highest elected black official and a former U.S. Navy aviator, suddenly resigned.
Carroll was facing a variety of serious charges, ranging from her involvement in a questionable charity for veterans to an improper relationship with a former employee.
Carroll’s exit comes as Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who now needs to find a new running mate for his re-election bid, is faltering in the polls.
Having kept his campaign promises to hold the line on state spending, as well as rejecting federal dollars for a high-speed rail, Scott has made his share of enemies in the middle and on the left.
Scott, a former healthcare executive, also angered his fellow conservatives by agreeing to have his state join the Medicaid exchange and thus participate in the Obamacare process he has long railed against.
“Will the governor be able to go out and defend it once he hits the campaign trail? We’ll have to see,” conservative former Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida told The Washington Post.
A recent Public Policy Polling survey among likely Republican voters in Florida showed Scott losing to West, who was defeated last fall after one term in Congress, by a margin of 38 percent to 37 percent. West is unlikely to run, but State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has not ruled out a primary challenge to Scott.
Among all likely voters, PPP found, Scott loses to all possible Democratic opponents. But his biggest defeat, according to the survey, would come at the hands of former Republican governor and recent Democratic convert Charlie Crist.
Having relinquished the governorship after one term in 2010 to run unsuccessfully for the Senate as an independent against Republican winner Marco Rubio, Crist crushes Scott by a margin of 53 percent to 39 percent, according to the poll. By all accounts, coming from Florida, there is a strong effort to clear the Democratic primary for Crist by the former governor’s law partner, millionaire trial attorney John Morgan, a heavyweight Democratic contributor.
With Scott on the ropes, Florida Republicans are looking at possible lieutenant governors who could help him as a running mate in a re-election bid.
Under Florida election law, should the lieutenant governorship become vacant, the governor fills the vacancy by appointment. Scott says he will name a successor to Carroll once the current session of the legislature adjourns.
Within an hour of Carroll’s exit, the name on many Republican lips for her post was that of former nine-term GOP Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami, one of the first two Florida House members of Cuban heritage and the scion of a family prominent in the politics of both Havana and Miami.
Considered a moderate-to-conservative — Diaz-Balart opposed the Defense of Marriage Act and was one of 15 Republicans in the House to vote for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military — the 58-year-old attorney is considered a man of strong ethics and is respected by all factions in the Republican Party.
Whether Diaz-Balart would leave a lucrative law practice to return to politics is unclear at this time.
Betting in Tallahassee is also high that Scott will once again turn to a woman as his running mate. Among the names mentioned are those of state Sens. Anitere Flores of Miami, considered one of Mitt Romney’s most magnetic speakers in the state, and Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, who has a strong following in Southwest Florida.
One intriguing possibility is that of Sandy Adams — a former one-term Congresswoman, former policewoman, and favorite of the tea party — who lost a primary to fellow Republican Rep. John Mica when redistricting forced them to compete for the same turf last year. Adams would surely shore up Scott’s standing with conservative activists disappointed with his Medicaid stance.
As of this week, the odds against Rick Scott winning re-election as governor of Florida are as long as, say, those against an Argentine pope were a few weeks ago. But as it was in the papal election, things can change rather fast. The appointment of a new lieutenant governor could, for Scott, be a change for the better.
GOP Looking Good for Senate Gain in West Virginia:
The Democrat that most West Virginia Democrats wanted to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller next year recently said, “Thanks but no thanks.” Carte Goodwin, former chief counsel to Sen. Joe Manchin while he was still governor of the Mountain State, told reporters that he would not make the race because of family concerns and wanting to spend more time with his wife and two children. This leaves the likely Republican nominee, seven-term Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, in a stronger position to become her state’s first Republican senator since 1958. Polls show her leading the “B-team” of possible Democratic hopefuls by comfortable margins.
More Obama Meetings With Republicans Coming:
A Republican House member says more head-to-head meeting are likely between President Obama and GOP lawmakers. The member, who requested anonymity, told me last weekend he recently met with the president. “They asked me afterward if I would come to the White House for lunch with the president and bring any two colleagues I wanted.” The member and his two selections all “have tea-party support.” Mr. Obama is likely to begin meeting with other Republican lawmakers outside the leadership in such a one-on-one matter as a part of his “charm offensive” to reach a middle ground on the budget and deficit.
John Gizzi is the former political editor for Human Events, working for the conservative weekly from 1979 to 2013. Gizzi is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence, was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002, and has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV talk shows.
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