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Candidates for Lieutenant Governor Both Seasoned Lawmakers

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Tallahassee, FL – Neither candidate for governor - Republican Rick Scott or Democrat Alex Sink - has served in the Florida Legislature. Scott has never held office at all, while Sink has served only her current term as Chief Financial Officer. But both chose seasoned lawmakers, respected on both sides of the aisle, as their running mates. Margie Menzel reports.

Scott is running as an outsider, but he picked a consummate insider for lieutenant governor - Rep. Jennifer Carroll of Jacksonville, whom he introduced on September 2nd.

"She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2003, has been re-elected ever since. She is a history-maker and a barrier-breaker. She was the first African American woman elected to the Florida Legislature. She didn't rest on her laurels, as she worked hard for her constituents and rose to the position of House majority whip."

Carroll, the Legislature's lone black Republican, also served under then-Gov. Jeb Bush as executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. A native of Trinidad, she's a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. Like most legislative leaders, Carroll backed McCollum in the GOP primary, but has since embraced Scott's outsider status.

"Having an outsider like Rick Scott coming before them as a gubernatorial candidate, saying, 'We're going to clean up shop and really put the people first' is important. Secondly, understanding - and Rick is a smart man - understanding he doesn't have that legislative experience and we will need to get a relationship established with the Legislature to change the things that we are campaigning on."

Former state Senator Rod Smith, Democrat of Gainesville, was admired as a lawmaker, too. He's also known for his oratory, as at the legislative memorial for former Senate President Jim King, the Republican Senator from Jacksonville, who he eulogized as working for a bipartisan Senate.

"He made me promise - I remember this well - that I would not wear my partisan hat, I wouldn't wear my professional hat as a lawyer, I wouldn't try to undo a deal simply because my party or my colleagues and my profession might not like it, and that most importantly, every time I would come back to him, I could say that we had focused on the fairness of the proposals in front of us."

Before serving in the Senate, Smith was a prosecutor, well known for winning the conviction of Danny Rolling in the 1990 serial murders at the University of Florida and as the State Attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit. He ran for governor in 2006, but lost to five-term congressman Jim Davis. Lawyer/lobbyist Sam Bell, a Democratic rainmaker, says Smith is attracting independents and GOP moderates to the Sink campaign.

"I know of a number of Republicans who were delighted with this choice. I think there is going to be a lot of Republican support for Alex, and he has enhanced that support," he said.

Bell acknowledges that Carroll, too, was a good pick...

"Jennifer Carroll is a fine person. She was a good legislator," Bell said. "She's articulate and she knows the issues. I think she'll be an asset in the Scott campaign."

Above all, all four candidates are touting their concern for Florida's economy and their ability to right it. Jennifer Carroll:

"And when people are hurting, with losing their homes and losing their jobs, can't afford to feed their families - and the list goes on - then we're not going to have a good quality of life for Floridians, and Rick and I are all about making sure this sluggish economy is turned around."

...and Rod Smith:

"I'm convinced that we need to get past labels and start talking about what are the things that need to be done. What are the things that people are worried about at their breakfast table in the morning when they're talking to their family? It is about this economy, it is about jobs, it is about foreclosure, it is about good schools, it is about public safety - those are the communications they're having, and really, we don't need to attach labels to those. We need to attach solutions to those."

Conventional wisdom dictates that running mates usually don't matter much, unless they do something wrong. This year, they could play a larger role.