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Florida Swears In First Hispanic Lieutenant Governor

House Speaker Will Weatherford kicked off the ceremonial swearing in of former Republican lawmaker Carlos Lopez-Cantera as the next Lieutenant Governor of Florida but, Monday evening’s ceremony wasn’t the first time Cantera took the oath of office. He had been officially sworn in hours before in a private ceremony in the Governor’s office, making him the first Hispanic and first Miamian to ever be appointed to that position. Governor Rick Scott, whose support among Latinos in the state has all but dried up, may be hoping to use that to bolster his reelection campaign. But Scott introduced Cantera not simply as the first Hispanic LG but as someone familiar with how Florida’s government works.

“He has a history of serving Floridians with integrity as the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser and a four-term member of the Florida House. He was successful in ushering through tax reform and he was selected by his peers to serve in leadership positions as Majority Whip and then as Majority Leader. It is clear through his years of service that Carlos knows how to work together to get things done,” Scott said.

After close to a year of conjecture, Scott’s final choice for Lieutenant Governor has many in his party feeling reenergized. Venice Republican Senator Nancy Detert thinks Cantera could help the Republicans keep the governor’s mansion.

“I think it does help, geographically because Carlos is well-known on his side of the state and the governor is from Naples, the other side. So, I think geographically it helps, I think it helps to have a Hispanic and it’s just good for the state in general,” Detert said following the ceremony.

But, some state Democrats were quick to chide the governor for what they call “a political ploy” to win over Hispanics and voters in the southern part of the state. Still, others like Tallahassee Democratic Representative Alan Williams are just happy to have the seat filled. Williams said he’d rather focus on working with Cantera than be preoccupied with politics.

“We’re going to have a whole summer and fall to deal with politics. I think right now, it’s up to use as lawmakers, as policy-makers to really tackle the tough issues. And if Carlos Lopez-Cantera is willing to roll up his sleeves to tackle those tough issues, I believe that many of us are willing to roll up ours,” Williams remarked.

And during his short acceptance speech Monday night Cantera said he would do just that.

“There’s still more work to do, under Governor Scott’s leadership, I look forward to working with my friends in both parties to cut $500-million in taxes for Florida families this year,” Cantera declared.

That’s his new boss’s $500-million tax cut – one the governor hopes will bode well for him during the 2014 legislative session and in his re-election bid…just like his choice for lieutenant governor.