Fla. Governor Picks Friend to Fill Senate Seat
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Bypassing better-known Republicans, Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday instead chose his friend and top political adviser, George LeMieux, to fill the Senate seat given up this month by Mel Martinez.
Mr. Crist announced in May that rather than seek re-election, he would run for the Senate seat himself next year. Mr. LeMieux, 40, made it clear on Friday that he had no ambitions beyond the next 16 months, noting that “my time in Washington will be brief.”
Mr. Crist chose Mr. LeMieux, who once worked as his chief of staff and managed his 2006 campaign, over a list of other contenders, including former members of Congress, a former United States attorney and one of the state legislators who led the battle to keep Terri Schiavo alive. “I know the kind of public servant he has been and will be,” Mr. Crist said. “I know his soul, and I know that he will serve the people of this state honorably and well.”
Mr. Crist said he had picked Mr. LeMieux because of his “incredible integrity and great intellect,” but the choice was criticized by some politicians of both parties.
“The governor added another addition to his campaign team at taxpayers’ expense,” said Representative Kendrick B. Meek, a Miami Democrat, who has said he will seek the Senate seat.
Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican and former speaker of the Florida House, who is also running for the seat, called the choice of Mr. LeMieux disappointing and suggested that he might vote with Democrats once in Congress.
Representative Robert Wexler, a Boca Raton Democrat, praised the pick, however, and said Mr. LeMieux would be an “excellent senator.”
Mr. LeMieux, who was born in Fort Lauderdale, spent most of his professional career working for the law firm of Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart. He served as chairman of the Broward County Republican Party and was hired in 2003 by Mr. Crist, then the newly elected state attorney general, to be deputy attorney general. After a year as chief of staff to Mr. Crist in the governor’s office, he returned to his law firm in 2008 but remained involved in several state government initiatives, including gambling compact negotiations with the Seminole tribe.
Mr. LeMieux did not spend much time outlining his positions on Friday, although he said he was worried about the national deficit and was a believer in “limited government.” He said he was concerned about the health care proposals pending in Congress, but stopped short of saying he was opposed to them.
“I’ve got a lot of concerns,” Mr. LeMieux said, “but I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to study and a lot of people to talk to.”
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