In choosing a replacement for U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, Gov. Charlie Crist must be keenly aware of key constituencies in the Republican Party, such as gun owners. Marion Hammer (right), longtime lobbyist for the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and a former president of the NRA, says the best choice is clearly Jim Smith, the former attorney general and secretary of state and one of seven candidates in the running.
"He has the experience, he has the professionalism, he has the respect and the character to serve this state well," Hammer said. "This is a placeholder appointment and Jim Smith has worked hard in public service for this state and I think he would do a good job for 14 months." She said she made the NRA's preference clear to Crist's people.
Hammer said Crist's former chief of staff, George LeMieux, got an A-plus rating from the NRA when he ran for a state House seat 11 years ago. But she prefers Smith in part because of lis lengthy record of government service. "George LeMieux has not served, so that he would have a voting record," she said. "Someone who has never served, who doesn't know the process is going to need those 14 months to find his or her way around."
-- Steve Bousquet