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List of potential Atwater successors continues to grow

In Florida, there are few top tier elected positions available at the state level for ambitious pols. Until recently, the three Cabinet races locked up by incumbents promised to be snoozers this election year for all but the very top of the ticket -- the governor's race.

Then chief financial officer Jeff Atwater announced he's ready to ditch his $129,000 state job for one that makes nearly three times the salary: president of Florida Atlantic University. The search committee on Monday picked Atwater, and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux among 10 candidates to interview. If Atwater is named to the post, the governor could appoint a temporary replacement and open the door to politicians from both parties to scurry for the open seat.

Here's the latest line-up of who's considering the job should Atwater leave: 

* Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee: "There are a lot of moves on that board before it before that happens and all of that is out of my control. If there’s a vacancy I would consider it."

* House Speaker Will Weatherford: “It's too early to speculate on a position that isn't even vacant,” spokesman Ryan Duffy said via email. “The Speaker is focused on preparing for the upcoming Session and has not given much thought on his next step beyond then.”

* Senate President Don Gaetz: “Several people have called with words of encouragement, but he is hesitant to weigh in on what is currently a hypothetical scenario,” Gaetz spokeswoman Katie Betta said via email. “Right now President Gaetz is focused on the three years left in his term in the Senate, and particularly this last session as Senate President.”

* State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who ran unsuccessfully for chief financial officer in 2006, said the decision should be left to the governor but that he felt he would make a good fit. “It’s a job that matches my skill set very well and my professional experience,” Lee said. The Brandon Republican has also been considered as a possible running mate for Scott this fall. Lee said he said he sees pros and cons to both jobs.

* State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said he is interested but: “I’m holding back from making any kinds of big decisions like that until the situation becomes clear,” he said.

* State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, who also applied for the FAU job but was rejected by the search committee, is also being heavily recruited for the post said Sen. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek. Waldman, who had been recruited to run against Atwater, said he is not interested in the post.

* Pat Neal, a developer and former legislator who was already making plans to run in 2018 told the News Service of Florida: "I'm running for CFO whether appointed or not." Neal, who served in the House from 1974 to 1978 and in the Senate from 1978 to 1986, said he would help bankroll his own campaign, but has the kind of political and financial experience that such candidates often don't have.

-- Mary Ellen Klas and Tia Mitchell


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Can't take anymore

I guess the field showing interest in the CFO position can best be described as "credential free" for anything other than political connections that could qualify them for the post. All the Republicans in the field just view the job as another political stepping stone and the Dem's are simply unknowns from So. Florida. Can't we do better?


Typical career politicians living off of the hard-working citizen's dollars.

Richard Paul Dembinksy

It's raining tonight in Daytona Beach, so I believe my words will simply add reality to ANYONE running for the CFO position; if YOU are going to do exactly like Honorable Jeff Atwater has done for the past 4 years....save me the gasoline to go to the polls, just ask Governor Scott to do the job just like he is doing with the Lt. Governor position.

See, a republican (no matter which one) will not look into those areas that need to be reviewed; the democrats ALL of them are totally worthless, Charlie Crist is a weak challenger to Honorable Rick Scott, ....so I believe Rick Scott should appoint Me for the remaining days of Jeff Atwater's term (assuming he has already packed and is down at the U Haul store): I would vote for Governor Scott if he would reach out to an Independent for either the Lt. Governor or CFO.

The last words on Senate District 8, Please Governor Scott appoint Dorothy Hukill to be Lt. Governor, because that is the only way I could get even close to winning the next Senate election. Even though I have previously had been blessed with 51,000 votes...Dorothy Hukill has so much cash and 99 Percent of voters expected she will be the next person carved into those Rocks in North Dakota.

Surely, Dorothy Hukill could manage either Jeff Atwater's CFO position or Lt. Governor.

Of course the residents and voters of Volusia County would be honored to have Dorothy Hukill advance out of the area.

Oh, there will be NO change in the next 4 years, because Charlie Crist is just too weak in Volusia County. Charlie Crist seems to have gone into the same cave that Al Gore used in 2000. Charlie Crist WAKE UP you are losing in Volusia County.

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