Breaking: Florida Gov. Picks Senator to Replace Martinez

U.S. Senator-in-waiting George LeMieux

I knew it! I was saving the latest edition of George LeMieux’s email newsletter, which talked about his readiness to be the next U.S. Senator from Florida, because I had a feeling Gov. Charlie Crist would pick his safe old chum for the job. And he did. Crist’s former chief of staff, campaign manager, and one of the countless people on Karl Rove’s bad list, is in.

In the newsletter, LeMieux made it clear he wanted the job of replacing Mel Martinez, who announced he would step down as soon as a successor was tapped.

Who will Governor Crist appoint to the United States Senate? It’s the question everyone’s asking, so while we sit back and wait for the announcement (some sitting more anxiously than others!), here’s the answer to the question we should also be asking – Why does the Governor get to choose?

Le Mieux went on to explain how it came to be that governors get to select Senate replacements, then added:

What should we expect from LeMieux? Like his former boss Crist, nothing much.

The opportunity to receive an appointment to the U.S. Senate is the opportunity of a lifetime. The Governor has many outstanding current and former public servants to choose from, and we should find out this week who will represent Florida in Washington.

As we noted in an earlier column, Charlie, who is currently running for this very Senate seat, had to pick someone he could trust not to run against him in 2010. Whoever he put in as a placeholder would be an incumbent should they decide they like the air in Washington. But confidence in LeMieux’s loyalty to his old boss seems well-placed.

We still chuckle at Karl Rove’s annoyance with LeMieux after the 2006 mid-term elections, in which Republicans shed Congressional seats like my dog sheds hair in August. Bush’s popularity had gone into a slide from which it would never recover, and many candidates, including Crist on advice from George LeMieux, were distancing themselves from the president. As we told you at the time:

Karl has shown the pressure lately. After Florida Governor candidate, now Governor-elect, Charlie Crist failed to attend a rally with the President in his honor just before the election, Karl was feeling it. One moment of Rovian pique was even immortalized by Crist’s campaign workers at a victory party.

…dozens of campaign staff then arrived wearing black T-shirts that said “Ask George LeMieux.”

…Asked [earlier] by CNN why Crist wouldn’t appear with the president at an election eve rally in Pensacola, a miffed Rove snapped that the reporter should ask George LeMieux.

LeMieux was Crist’s campaign manager.

So what should we expect from LeMieux? Like his former boss Crist, nothing much. LeMieux is considered a moderate and is chair of the powerful Florida legal team Gunster, Yoakley. While his appointment is already being panned by Florida Democratic Party chair Karen Thurman as cronyism, we can only say, “And your point is?”

It’s the Republican side that will have the most interesting response. Crist’s opponent for the Senate seat is far-right firebrand Marco Rubio, who will no doubt seize upon LeMieux’s selection as more evidence that Charlie isn’t hard-core enough to represent Republicans. The problem is that while that’s true, he also isn’t genuine enough to represent the rest of us.

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