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The clock is Gov. Scott's ally in lieutenant governor search

As Gov. Rick Scott ponders who to pick as Florida's next lieutenant governor, one factor on his side is the clock.

Scott appears to be in no rush to appoint a No. 2, and the political calendar and election laws give him plenty of time. The revelation that Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins,  a registered Democrat, is being given a close look by Scott prompted a fresh review of the laws and timetables by election supervisors. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said the issue was a popular topic at a supervisors of elections conference at Marco Island last week.

The key points:

Scott is not required by law to pick a running mate until Sept. 4, 2014. State law (99.063 (1)) says "no later than 5 p.m. of the 9th day following the primary election, each candidate for governor shall designate a lieutenant governor as a running mate." The 2014 primary will be Aug. 26. The attorney for the Orange County School Board, Diego "Woody" Rodriguez, interprets this to mean that the qualifying deadline for a candidate for lieutenant governor is 5 p.m. Sept. 4, 2014, when the running mate must file an oath of office, financial disclosure statement and other forms.

Rodriguez, the former legal counsel to the Orange County elections office, wrote about Jenkins in a June 12 email: "In short, if she is appointed she would have to change parties soon to be safe." (The fact that the lawyer researched the issue underscores the belief in Orlando political circles that Jenkins is under serious consideration).

If Jenkins is to be Scott's choice, she appears to have until Sept. 4 of this year to change her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. A law enacted in 2011, and signed by Scott, includes a requirement on a candidate oath of office "that the person has not been a registered member of any other political party for 365 days before the beginning of qualifying preceding the general election." That's the law that tripped up Nancy Argenziano last year when the former Republican state senator tried to run for Congress as a Democrat.

Rodriguez said that provision does not appear to apply to an appointed replacement for lieutenant governor, so the 365-day clock wouldn't apply to Jenkins if Scott appoints her next year.

The consensus among election supervisors is that the governor and lieutenant governor must be of the same party because of a clause in the state Constitution that says they "shall form joint candidacies in a manner prescribed by law so that each voter shall cast a single vote for a candidate for governor and a candidate for lieutenant governor running together." (Art. IV, Sec. 5(a)).

For the record, Jenkins remains a registered Democrat, the Orange County elections office confirms.

-- Steve Bousquet