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Scott eyes UF trustee as possible replacement for Armstrong

With Dr. John Armstrong's confirmation as health secretary in deep trouble in the Senate, Gov. Rick Scott may need to find a replacement in a hurry, and the Herald/Times learned Thursday that Scott's top advisers have found their likely replacement.

He's Dr. Jason Rosenberg, a plastic surgeon in Gainesville who has received two high-profile appointments from the governor to the statewide Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding and to the board of trustees at his alma mater, the University of Florida.

Rosenberg holds three degrees from UF. Like Armstrong, he also has a military background, and he likely would take a sizable pay cut to take a job in Tallahassee. Here's his biography on the UF website.

Scott's office issued a statement Thursday in response to this story, reaffirming support for Armstrong. "We are confident that Dr. Armstrong will be confirmed by the Senate because he is overwhelmingly the best person for the job. Period," said a statement from spokeswoman Jackie Schutz.

The fact that Scott's advisers have identified a replacement is another sign of Armstrong's uncertain future in his dual roles as state surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health.

If Armstrong is not confirmed, he would be out of a job the moment the 2016 session adjourns Sine Die, most likely on Friday, March 11.

Rosenberg is said to be the favorite of Scott's chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, and his general counsel, Tim Cerio. Rosenberg also is a friend and former UF classmate of Alan Levine, a former UF trustee who has the governor's ear on health matters.

Levine served as secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration under former Gov. Jeb Bush and both he and Rosenberg served on Scott's health and human services transition team after Scott was first elected in 2010.

Armstrong is one vote short of clearing the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee. Senate President Andy Gardiner said Wednesday he may pull Armstrong out of that 10-member panel and let the full 40-member Senate decide on whether Armstrong keeps his $141,000 a year job.   

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