Not Really "Le Mieux"
We have a new United States Senator to replace Florida's Mel Martinez. He's the former chief of staff of the Governor who appointed him, who is also seeking the job in 2010.
Gov. Charlie Crist chose trust and loyalty Friday over Washington experience or potential political gain in choosing former chief of staff George LeMieux to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.
State Rep. Jennifer Carroll, who was considered for the position, said Crist told her he is choosing LeMieux. LeMieux is Crist's closest political adviser and the governor's pick shows he wants someone who thinks like him to hold the Senate seat Crist hopes to win in the November 2010 election.
As LeMieux said after interviewing for the position: "I'm a Charlie Crist Republican."
Technically, this is a caretaker position, albeit one that lasts a year and a half. And I think it shows the pitfalls associated with gubernatorial appointments, especially in this case, where the Governor in question is running for the seat. Crist is basically putting in a sock-puppet, who can be expected to follow his wishes to a T. During Crist's primary with conservative Marco Rubio, we can expect LeMieux to protect Crist's right flank by voting straight down the conservative line. As soon as Crist wins the primary, LeMieux will get religion and start voting in a moderate fashion, to prove Crist's moderate bona fides. I'd almost guarantee it.
With the Kennedy situation still fluid, I think that a potential Massachusetts law would be the best of all possible worlds - a quick appointment because of the outsized importance of Senate representation, along with a quick-strike special election within 4-5 months. Certainly better that a Governor putting in his sock-puppet while running for the seat himself.
By the way, LeMieux is also a former and possibly current registered lobbyist, but he's also a Republican, so that's somewhat redundant.
Kendrick Meek, the Democrat running for Senate, came out swinging:
From the moment Senator Martinez announced his retirement, Governor Crist placed his ambitions over Florida's needs. Floridians require a Senator working to ease their economic pain and achieve comprehensive health insurance reform, not a political appointee who serves the monied special interests.
The Governor added another edition to his campaign team at taxpayers' expense. George LeMieux doesn't represent Floridians facing economic challenges - he represents privileged clients with expense accounts far removed from the realities Floridians are facing.
Governor Crist was afforded a high responsibility with this appointment. Instead, he treated this process like a mockery, politicizing his selection by flying around the state at taxpayers' expense, touring major media markets and drawing this selection out. Well respected Floridians with a wealth of elected service experience from Congressman Clay Shaw to Mayor John Delaney to various Hispanic leaders were in a position to hit the ground running if appointed, but that possibility is now nonexistent.
By appointing George LeMieux, Governor Crist's inner circle was rewarded with a U.S. Senate seat and Floridians are left lacking the representation they deserve.
I like the "Charlie Crist choose a Senator tour" that apparently accompanied this selection. And in the end, he put his campaign manager and chief of staff in the seat. That probably could have happened without the fanfare.