Gov. Rick Scott considering four names for lieutenant governor

11/18/2013 6:58 PM

11/18/2013 6:59 PM

Gov. Rick Scott is considering four people as possible picks for lieutenant governor, including a pair of longtime Tampa Bay-area politicians, a sheriff and a superintendent of schools.

It is probably no coincidence that two of those on Scott’s short list are from Hillsborough County, a pivotal swing county in statewide elections. Scott’s main rival for reelection, Democrat Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, is also from the Tampa Bay area.

Scott’s office has started vetting state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, the only woman on the short list of candidates for the No. 2 job.

Others being considered are Sheriff Don Eslinger of Seminole County, near Orlando, and Joseph Joyner, the appointed school superintendent of St. Johns County.

The lieutenant governor’s office has been empty since March 12, when Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned after it was revealed that she did marketing work for a veterans’ charity that was at the center of an investigation of illegal gambling in Internet cafes.

Carroll’s aides were dismissed, and Scott has said little about the search for her replacement.

“I’m still reviewing it,” Scott said last week. “There’s a lot of great people around the state that could be great lieutenant governors. We’re still going through the process.”

Each of the four under consideration could help Scott in different ways as he seeks a second term next November. But none is well known by voters, and only Lee has had any experience under the microscope of statewide politics.

No one on the short list would speak Monday to the Herald/Times.

Lee, 51, a former state Senate president who aspires to hold that job again, is a seasoned lawmaker and capable fundraiser with a pro-business voting record. He lost his only statewide race to Alex Sink for chief financial officer in 2006. Lee could smooth out the rough patches between Scott and the Legislature.

Murman, 63, is a former Democrat who served in the state House from 1996 to 2004 and is known for her advocacy of children. Elected a Hillsborough County commissioner as a Republican in 2010, she has been seen at Scott events in Tampa.

Eslinger, 56, has held office since 1991 as the media-savvy sheriff of a county in the heart of the Interstate 4 corridor. His agency led a prolonged criminal probe of Internet cafes that led to the conviction last month of a Jacksonville lawyer who ran veterans’ charities as fronts for illegal gambling. Scott signed a law outlawing Internet cafes last spring.

Joyner, 58, of St. Augustine, is the most obscure member on the short list. He has been the appointed superintendent of St. Johns County schools since 2003, and its students have had the highest FCAT scores in the state for the past five years. Joyner has supported the Common Core standards that Scott has distanced himself from.

It was unclear Monday how long the vetting would last or when an appointment would be made.

Scott’s office declined to discuss any names or the process.

“I can’t comment,” said Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers. “We’ll take the right time to find the right person.”

In the past, Scott chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth has said that a selection would not be based on political calculations such as race, gender or geography. Rather, Hollingsworth said, Scott will find “a steward of the governor’s vision and character.”

If Murman or Lee is selected, it would create vacancies in their current offices that must be filled by voters.

Absent from Scott’s list is John Thrasher, 69, an influential state senator from St. Augustine and a former lobbyist whose name has figured in much speculation. He is seeking reelection to the Senate.

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