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Rick Scott's new LG, Lopez-Cantera, is a deal-making loyalist, Marco Rubio pal

@PatriciaMazzei @MarcACaputo

In the final frenzied days of the state’s legislative session, the Florida House speaker had a problem that only Carlos Lopez-Cantera could help fix.

Lopez-Cantera, the House Republican leader at the time, was one of the few lawmakers Speaker Dean Cannon trusted to defeat a worker’s compensation pharmaceutical measure pushed by the state Senate and powerful special interests.

“Carlos could have taken it easy and done the easy thing to curry favor with the Senate and others because I was about to leave office and so was he,” Cannon said.

“But Carlos didn’t do that. He helped get the votes we needed,” he said. “Carlos is a fiercely loyal guy.”

The anecdote about Lopez-Cantera’s help back in 2011 has particular relevance these days: Cannon shared it with Rick Scott when the governor phoned him to vet Lopez-Cantera to be Florida’s new lieutenant governor.

On Tuesday, Scott formally announced he would appoint Lopez-Cantera — currently Miami-Dade County’s property appraiser — to the No. 2 slot. He replaces Jennifer Carroll, who resigned last March amid a scandal involving an illegal gambling operation. Carroll, never accused, was later cleared of wrongdoing by investigators.

Lopez-Cantera refused to comment for this article, obeying the wishes of Scott’s political team, which has forbidden him from talking to the press until he assumes office Feb. 3.

For Cannon and others who know him, Lopez-Cantera, who turned 40 last month, was a no-brainer of a pick.

Though a former House Republican leader, Lopez-Cantera was well-liked by Democrats in the Legislature. Though conservative, he’s not rigidly ideological.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who served as state House speaker in 2007 and 2008 when Lopez-Cantera was a representative, said his close friend builds strong relationships with genuine affability and a keen appreciation for people, politics and how to make a deal.

“He understands someone who’s really with you and someone’s who’s ‘with’ you — that is, someone who may not be there in the end,” Rubio said.

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