TALLAHASSSEE, Fla. - Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera was officially sworn in Monday morning, becoming the 19th lieutenant governor in Florida's history and the first Latino to hold that position.
Lopez-Cantera, 40, took the oath of office around 10:30 a.m. at a private event in Gov. Rick Scott's office in the Capitol, according to a Scott spokeswoman. Scott and Lopez-Cantera's family attended the official swearing in. A public, ceremonial event was held later Monday evening in the House chambers.
In addition to becoming the next in line should something happen to Scott, Lopez-Cantera will serve as the governor's running mate in what looks to be a difficult battle for re-election.
Speaking to the press about an hour after taking the oath, Lopez-Cantera praised Scott for the economic progress Florida has made over the last three years and began rattling off the talking points that the message-conscious governor has been using.
"The governor's been doing a great job," he said at an event outside the Governor's Mansion. "I just look forward to being a part of the team and helping in any way that I can."
Alternating between Spanish and English at the public event, Lopez-Cantera sprinkled in some of Scott's personal slogans, from "let's get to work" to "it's working" to talk of an "opportunity economy."
And he exhibited some of the state pride that has become part of Scott's mantra.
"Because, let's face it, this is the very best place to work and to live -- period," he said.
For his part, Scott highlighted the benefits Lopez-Cantera would have as a four-term House member and, most recently, the property appraiser in vote-rich Miami-Dade County.
"He's got the right background," Scott said of his new No. 2. "He's got a great legislative background -- being majority leader, majority whip, building great relationships. He's been in business. He's got local government experience. He's going to be a major part of making sure we get our $500 million tax break back to Florida families."
Scott suggested that Lopez-Cantera would be the point person for a plan to roll back motor-vehicle registration fees and taxes on commercial leases and corporate income -- the centerpiece of Scott's election-year budget. At one point, the governor told reporters that Lopez-Cantera is "responsible to make sure we get the $500 million tax cut."
That would be a change from Scott's first lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, who was rarely publicly involved in lobbying for Scott's priorities, though she was reportedly involved in a last-minute push to overhaul the state's personal injury protection insurance system in the 2012 session.
Carroll, who co-owned a company that previously provided consulting services for Allied Veterans of the World, resigned March 12 after that organization emerged as the central target of an illegal gambling investigation. Carroll, whose company did the work before she became lieutenant governor, was never charged with wrongdoing in the probe.
On the campaign trail, Lopez-Cantera will likely be called upon to be the attack dog against former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, running as a Democrat to reclaim his old job. But asked if he would be a "hatchet man" in the fall, Lopez-Cantera just laughed before Scott stepped in and started talking again about job growth.
"He's going to be a great partner, we're going to have a great year running together, and it's going to be a lot of fun," Scott said.
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