When Florida Gov. Charlie Crist decided to nominate somebody else, besides himself, for the opening U.S. Senate seat, a sigh of relief could be heard ’round the state’s bathhouses. Crist opted for George LeMieux (pictured, on left) to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Mel Martinez, the Senate’s first Cuban-American. Crist, of course, plans on leaving the governor’s mansion to run for a U.S. Senate seat next year, but yesterday announced he’s given the temporary opening to LeMieux — Crist’s one-time deputy attorney general and chief of staff, and someone who’s never held public office. So is this a good thing for the gays?
It could be argued: Yes.
LeMieux, a legal eagle and the former chair of Florida’s Broward County Republican Party, is married with three kids. His only stab at holding elected office came in 1998 in a bid for the Florida House; he lost. But it was during the campaign, and at age 29, that LeMieux publicly supported gay adoptions and health benefits for same-sex couples.
That’s a terribly interesting position to have once maintained, because LeMieux’s former boss Crist has very different feelings on the matter. Then again, it’s entirely plausible LeMieux went the gay-friendly route only to steal votes away from his then-competitor, incumbent Tracy Stafford.
So how will the twosome come to terms on the matter? Perhaps it all depends on what strategy the pair worked out when Crist handed LeMieux the Senate seat: Whether LeMieux is there to hold on to the post until Crist makes a full campaign push in 2010 and takes it over, or whether Crist plans on defeating Florida’s other U.S. senator, Democrat (C-Street “Family” member and former astronaut) Bill Nelson. Notes the Miami Herald‘s Beth Reinhard:
Voters should also be asking questions about where LeMieux stands. Will he try to explain away the positions he took during his 1998 campaign — in favor of gay adoption, limits on offshore oil drilling and waiting periods at gun shows? Will he be a seat-warming proxy for Crist or a principled warrior for the people of Florida?
LeMieux will likely heed the lessons he learned in Broward. He’ll follow the same politically moderate, occasionally conservative philosophy that’s kept Crist popular through a rotten recession. It’s also a please-everyone-and-no-one, keep-em’-guessing, say-as-little-as-possible type of politics that rankles Democrats and conservative Republicans to no end.
“I’ve learned working with this governor that the people want a problem solver,” LeMieux told the Fort Lauderdale crowd Friday evening. “And I will seek to be a problem solver in Washington, D.C., and I will do so like this great governor does, with the principle of limited government always on my mind.”