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Democrats, be careful what you ask for

By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2003

We've all been playing the speculation game about our next lieutenant governor.

Who will it be?

Will the governor replace Frank Brogan with someone who wants to run for governor in 2006?

Or will he select someone who will just be a compatible caretaker and help him handle a cantankerous legislature?

Will he appoint a woman or a minority so he can make a statement -- and history?

Bush generally brushes aside questions, saying he has given it little thought. This week he said he has begun to think about it, but has no short list.

"We'll have one soon," he says. He's planning a trip to Spain later this month and will return in early March ready to make an appointment, Bush says. That timeline coincides with Brogan's departure on March 1 to become president at Florida Atlantic University.

Bush says he wants, first of all, someone who could serve as governor. Secondly, "someone who shares my view of the role of government. Third, someone who is compatible with me for that person's sake."

He adds that "diversity is always a consideration in every selection I make."

Meanwhile, the mere sighting of someone said to be in consideration is cause for added speculation. Former Senate President Toni Jennings was in town this week for a Florida Chamber of Commerce meeting and "just happened to stop by for a visit" in the governor's office.

Would she be the one? we asked.

"Give me a break," was her exasperated reply. But she didn't say no.

Bush's very public lunch with Rep. Dudley Goodlette, R-Naples, sparked rumors, but even though it was at an outdoor cafe frequented by reporters and lobbyists, Goodlette said it was all about medical malpractice laws. Goodlette won't say no, either.

Few people could or would say no if the governor asked them. Nobody wants to be caught asking for this job.

The Democrats are in full whine over the prospect of a governor appointing his own lieutenant governor. They want the new lieutenant governor to face election in 2004. Perhaps they need to have their heads examined. Do they really want to awaken the GOP political machine at midterm?

They are hanging their hat on language in the Florida Constitution that says those appointed to fill elected vacancies must face the voters if the remainder of the term is more than 28 months. But they are overlooking a Florida Supreme Court opinion that deems the lieutenant governor's job to be an appointed one.

Perhaps the governor should simply appoint Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox, the new chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

Since the Constitution assigns no duties to the lieutenant governor except for those the governor gives him, Bush could make good use of Maddox.

Perhaps Mayor Maddox could save the state some money in a tight budget year by cleaning all the restrooms in the State Capitol. Or he could coordinate all of the building's recycling bins.

The possibilities for using a Democrat to spruce up the place are endless. Think how entertaining this could be. We could list the "chores of the day" assigned by the governor.

Perhaps the governor would take suggestions from all Floridians. We could turn this into a contest for school children and generate all sorts of interest: "Pick the chores the lieutenant governor will handle this week."

Or perhaps the governor could rent him out to housewives looking for someone to help around the house. The income-producing possibilities are unlimited.

Maybe the Democrats should rethink this situation. Do they really want to elect a lieutenant governor?

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