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Governor touts Brogan for U.S. education post

The lieutenant governor says he would be honored to serve in the U.S. Cabinet, but he has not been called yet.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 21, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- As George W. Bush assembles his administration, he continues to cast his eyes toward Florida.

One of the state's Republicans is quite interested, but another whose name was mentioned this week says he hasn't been contacted.

Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan, touted by Gov. Jeb Bush for the post of U.S. education secretary, said Wednesday he has not discussed the Cabinet post with the incoming president's transition team.

"The speculation is high and I'm flattered by the discussion, but I haven't had a discussion with anybody in Washington or Texas," Brogan told the Associated Press.

"If the president of the United States calls you, that's obviously something you'd consider, but I love my job and I'm not anxious to leave here. I love working with Jeb Bush," Brogan said.

"I haven't talked to a soul about (the education post). If they want to discuss it, I'd be happy to talk about it and then we'd go from there."

Meanwhile, Florida's veterans affairs director, Robin Higgins, under consideration for veterans' affairs secretary in President-elect Bush's administration, interviewed with the transition team on Tuesday.

"Nothing's been offered," she said after returning to Tallahassee on Wednesday. "Just to be considered is an outstanding honor and very flattering."

Higgins, who turns 50 Saturday, is a 20-year Marine Corps veteran and served in the Labor Department during the administration of Bush's father, former President George Bush. In 1988, Higgins' husband, Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, was captured and later murdered by terrorists in Lebanon.

Jeb Bush told reporters on Monday that he spoke with his brother about Brogan and the position for secretary of the Department of Education.

"With all due respect to all the candidates being considered, Frank Brogan combines all of the tools necessary for being the best secretary of education this country has ever seen," Jeb Bush said.

Brogan, 47, a former school superintendent in Martin County, served as Florida education commissioner from 1995-99. He graded Florida schools, focusing attention on chronically failing ones. As lieutenant governor under Bush, he was a primary architect of Florida's school voucher law, which allows parents of students at persistently troubled schools to get tax dollars for private schools.

In the days since Jeb Bush floated Brogan's name, however, other possible candidates for the federal education job have surfaced. The AP reported that the Rev. Floyd Flake of New York, a former member of Congress who backs school vouchers, was being considered.

If Brogan were to stay put, it would please Florida Republicans, who see him as a future U.S. Senate or gubernatorial candidate.

Earlier this year, Brogan considered a run for the U.S. Senate but decided against it. Democrat Bill Nelson defeated Republican Rep. Bill McCollum.

President-elect Bush approved the nomination of one Floridian Tuesday, former Cuban refugee Mel Martinez, as housing secretary. Martinez is an Orange County chairman and was co-chairman of Bush's campaign in Florida.

In the last few days, other Floridians have been mentioned for possible Cabinet positions: retiring U.S. Rep. Tillie Fowler for secretary of the Navy; and David Struhs, director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to replace another Floridian, Carol Browner, as head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. However, Bush is expected to name New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman to take the environmental post.

Former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher, being touted by the Republican leaders as a good fit for the administration, downplayed the talk Wednesday. He said he was looking forward to his new job as a lobbyist in Tallahassee.

Thrasher also has been mentioned as a likely choice to fill Brogan's lieutenant governor's job should Brogan go to Washington.

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