After 326 days without a lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera Monday was formally sworn in as Gov. Rick Scott’s No. 2.
Lopez-Cantera will play a key role in helping Scott’s office negotiate legislative priorities with the Legislature, including securing a $500 million tax and fee cut.
“He is going to be a major part of making sure we get our $500 million tax break back to Florida families,” Scott told reporters Monday morning.
Scott’s tax and fee cut package consists of $400 million in the reeducation of fees related to car registration. Those were increased in 2009 when lawmakers were scrambling for new revenue sources. The remaining $100 million would come from lowering rent paid on commercial leases.
Lopez-Cantera, 40, was officially sworn in around 10:30 a.m. in the governor’s office by Judge Joseph Lewis of the First District Court of Appeals. Ricky Polston, chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, led a ceremonial swearing at 5 p.m. in the House chambers.
“With the help of many in this room, unemployment is down to 6.2 percent,” Lopez-Cantera said in his speech to packed House chamber.
He brings with him lots of legislative experience. He served in the House for eight years, rising to the level of majority leader. He has served as Miami-Dade County’s property appraiser, an elected position, since 2012.
Politically, Lopez-Cantera joins Scott’s reelection ticket at a time when most polls have him trailing Democrat Charlie Crist. A Quinnipiac University poll out last week had Crist, up by 8-points. Lopez-Cantera said that once people learn about Scott’s resume, the numbers will improve.
“When they see unemployment is down from 11.1 to 6.2 percent, 462,000 jobs created since the governor started as governor…and more than $3 billion in debt paid down,” he said. “This governor has done a great job.”
His address in the House chamber came in both English and Spanish, underscoring his ability to reach out to Florida’s important bloc of Hispanic voters on the campaign trail. Lopez-Cantera was born in Madrid, Spain and raised in Miami.
Scott lost Miami-Dade County by roughly 70,000 votes in 2010, a margin he hopes will shrink with Lopez-Cantera on the ticket.
The lieutenant governor’s post has been vacant since Clay County Republican Jennifer Carroll resigned in March. She stepped down after being questioned by law enforcement about her connection to a non-profit group whose executives now face fraud charges. She has been accused of no wrongdoing.