Gov. Rick Scott announced his decision Tuesday, more than 10 months after former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned.
Lopez-Cantera is a former state House Majority Leader and is also expected to be Scott's running mate during his 2014 re-election campaign.
In a statement, Scott said, "I am confident that we took the right amount of time to find the right person to serve as Florida’s Lieutenant Governor. Carlos’ leadership experience will make him a vital part of ensuring the passage of our $500 million tax cut package this year. And his business experience and expertise in cutting taxes and government regulations will support small business growth and success.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the decision will connect Scott's administration to groups with which it needs to communicate better. “I think he will be a great partner for Governor Scott in both the legislative issues that are out there, Governor Scott pretty much did it on his own last year, but I think this year he can, he can be of big value, of great value to him," said state Senator John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican.
Miami Democratic State Senator Oscar Braynon says Lopez-Cantera’s legislative experience may also improve the administration’s relationship with lawmakers. “Well I think what he adds to the Governor’s administration is someone with hands-on experience in the legislative branch. I think that that is something that I believe this administration has lacked up until this point.”
Democratic state Senator Darren Soto, adds Lopez-Cantera could also help connect Scott to a key constituency: Hispanic voters.
“There have been issues that [were] supported the Hispanic community that he’s come up short on, and that’s still going to be a big issue. So maybe the Lieutenant Governor will have a little more influence on those issues. But as of right now they have been disappointing," Soto says.
In statements the Florida Democratic Party and it's Hispanic outreach arm, Florida New Majority, blasted the choice.
“It’s a cynical act to pander to Latino voters,” said Marcos Vilar of Florida New Majority. “Lopez-Cantera will be a rubber stamp for Scott’s anti-Latino agenda.”
The group points to what calls Scott's "anti-Latino agenda" in policies such as opposition to in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, and a purging of the state voter rolls.