Miami-Dade Property Appraiser and former state House Republican leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera is now under strong consideration by Gov. Rick Scott to be his running mate and, sources say, he could be tapped to be his lieutenant governor as early as this week.
One source indicated that Lopez-Cantera and Scott met Sunday in Miami, where the governor attended the Three Kings parade. They got along well and Scott indicated he wanted Lopez-Cantera for the job, the source said, but the timing of the announcement -- if there's one at all -- remains unclear.
Lending a measure of credence to the chatter from four Republican sources: the usually media friendly and easily accessible Lopez-Cantera hasn't returned calls or text messages since Friday.
Lopez-Cantera's vetting is an about-face for Scott's team, which initially refused to consider him -- in great part because Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, wanted other candidates.
Throughout all the chater, Lopez-Cantera has downplayed the talk and never lobbied for himself. But he never said "no," either.
"If anything, I want to help beat Charlie Crist," he said last month, noting that in 2006 he was one of the few Miami-Dade Republican state legislators to support Crist over Republican opponent Tom Gallagher.
At the time, Crist was a Republican who trounced Gallagher in the GOP primary and went on to beat Democrat Jim Davis in the general election.
Crist soon drifted leftward toward the center and conservative Republicans looked on aghast -- especially Lopez-Cantera's close friend and ally, then-House Speaker Marco Rubio, who even sued his fellow Republican over a gambling deal at one point.
A year after Rubio was termed-out in 2008, he started running for U.S. Senate against Crist, who was chased out of the GOP and became an independent. Rubio won that race.
Lopez-Cantera served under Rubio in the state House and served as majority leader through 2012, after which term limits forced him from state office. He then ran for and won the relatively new elected position of Miami-Dade property appraiser in 2012.
If chosen by Scott, Lopez-Cantera would be the state's first Hispanic lieutenant governor. His ethnicity aside, Lopez-Cantera also gives Scott a better shot at performing in the state's largest and most-Hispanic county, Miami-Dade, which Democrats need to win by big margins to remain competitive.
Privately, a number of Lopez-Cantera's fellow Hispanic Republicans from Miami-Dade have said for months that Scott is seriously underperforming in the Cuban-American community, once a bedrock of GOP support.
Lopez-Cantera has shown he can win in the county, is well-liked by conservatives throughout the state from his time leading the GOP in the state House, has helped lower property-tax values --thereby helping cut taxes -- and has a scandal-free reputation in a county known for scandal.
Scott has been considering other candidates, but two names released by Hollingsworth instantly said no -- a sign that their vetting wasn't real and that the governor's chief of staff failed to give them a heads up.
The lieutenant governor post has been empty since spring, when Hollingsworth forced out then-lieutenant governor Jennifer Carroll, who was distantly tied to a gambling scandal. She was cleared of wrongdoing, but by then the post was empty and has remained so far longer than anyone can remember in modern times.
Sources spotted Hollingsworth in the Tallahassee airport this morning as he appeared to bound a Miami-bound flight. Coincidence?
Disclosure: Lopez-Cantera's wife, Renee, has worked in the Miami Herald's circulation department advertising department (I think it's advertising, that is). While she doesn't come into contact with reporters or editors, it's nevertheless important to disclose the tie.