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With Lopez-Cantera's departure, former Miami-Dade property appraiser plans to vie for job again

@PatriciaMazzei Pedro Garcia

The happiest person to see Carlos Lopez-Cantera named Florida lieutenant governor might be the man he last defeated.

Pedro Garcia didn't hesitate Tuesday when a reporter called to ask if he'd be interested in running for Miami-Dade County property appraiser again, now that Lopez-Cantera plans to resign to become Gov. Rick Scott's number two in Tallahassee.

"Definitely. Yes," Garcia said.

After becoming the county's first elected property appraiser in 2008, Garcia lost a tight race to Lopez-Cantera in 2012. Upset that Lopez-Cantera had won more absentee votes than on Election Day, Garcia even sued to try to overturn the results, to no avail.

There was no love lost during the campaign between the two men, both Republicans seeking a nonpartisan post. Lopez-Cantera portrayed Garcia as a bureaucrat who did little to shape the office. Garcia painted Lopez-Cantera as a politician more interested in partisan ambitions than in the business of property appraisals.

On Tuesday, Garcia, who said he's been tending to his real-estate practice since leaving office, alluded to his old campaign argument.

"He didn't mind leaving the position, which is very important, especially now," he said of Lopez-Cantera's impending resignation. He is expected to leave the property appraiser's office on Feb. 3.

But Lopez-Cantera said he couldn't have foreseen the governor's offer.

"This is a tremendous honor, to be asked to serve as lieutenant governor," he said. "It's not something I was planning on. But that's not something that I could say no to."

Lopez-Cantera defended his brief tenure, in which he made his presence known at County Hall and tried to make his office more customer friendly. "Based on the feedback I've gotten from the citizens, the property owners of Dade County are very pleased with the changes we've made," he said.

For his part, Garcia said he would be willing to take over as soon as Lopez-Cantera jets to Tallahassee, though a county ordinance requires the deputy property appraiser to take over until the next countywide election, on Aug. 26.

"I'm ready to campaign," he said.

Photo credit: Enrique Flor, El Nuevo Herald staff