A few hours after Carlos Lopez-Cantera announced in Miami that he’s now a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year, the Florida lieutenant governor fielded questions about his candidacy on a conference call — including his response to the criticism that he hasn’t been given much to do over the past year and a half in his official duties in office.
“I’m proud that last year we cut $500 million in taxes. This year we cut over $400 million in taxes,” he said, mentioning items that he campaigned on in 2014. “And this year we had the highest level of education funding in the history of Florida. So, we’ve accomplished a lot here in Florida, and I’m part to be a proud of the team that’s done so.”
Lopez-Cantera was first elected to the Florida House in 2004. In 2012, he won election to be the Miami-Dade County property appraiser before being contacted by Scott to serve as the governor’s running mate and second in command in early 2014.
Unlike other lieutenant governors, Lopez-Cantera hasn’t been offered a lot of assignments in his gig as Scott’s second banana,. That has allowed the Florida Democratic Party and even some columnists to question what he’s been up to since replacing Jennifer Carroll in a job that actually went vacant for 10 months before he accepted the position. In addition to that criticism, Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant today attacked Lopez-Cantera’s record during his eight years in Tallahassee as a legislator — criticism that Lopez-Cantera welcomed while talking to reporters.
“I think it’s an indication they they’re concerned,” he said, describing himself as a common-sense conservative who has a list of accomplishments delivering results for Floridians that “could upset the apple cart and the status quo in Washington, D.C., that they’re working so hard to protect.”
Although he’s aligned closely with Marco Rubio, the lieutenant governor says that he has not been endorsed by the man he hopes to succeed in Washington. “He’s got a lot on his plate,” he quipped about Rubio’s other interests at the moment.
A good deal of Lopez-Cantera’s job last year as Rick Scott’s runningmate was to be an attack dog against Democrat Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial contest. When asked about the tax increases he voted for while in the Florida House in the late aughts, Lopez-Cantera blamed Crist.
“Look, Charlie Crist was a horrible governor,” he said to explain those votes. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that he put the Republican House in an impossible situation. … I’m proud of the governor’s team last year in undoing a lot of those Charlie Crist increases, and again, I’ll put my record of accomplishing tax cuts for seniors, accomplishing tax cuts and reducing the impact on taxes on property owners around the state against anybody who wants to criticize me, because I can guarantee you that I can print out more accomplished sponsored legislation that has made a difference, and that’s why I’m running.”
Jacksonville U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and former CIA contractor Todd Wilcox are the other Republicans in the race at the moment. Lopez-Canters said his conservative credentials take a backseat to no one in the contest.
“I’m not a person who’s all talk and rhetoric and promises. I’m someone who comes to this race with a record of accomplishments that have made a difference in Floridians’ lives. These are conservative accomplishments, so I challenge anybody whose running to put their record of actual legislation that they sponsored and passed against what I’ve been able to accomplish as a public servant over the last 10 years.”
Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly is expected to enter the contest next week. Lopez-Cantera said he thinks Jolly is a nice guy and congratulated him for his marriage earlier this month. But he said he knew little of Jolly’s voting record in Congress, and doesn’t really care to know more. “I’m not familiar with his record, and frankly I don’t plan on focusing on the records of others,” he said, adding that he’s glad he’s in a political party that respects competitive races, not like what the Democrats are doing with their Senate race, or the presidential race for that matter.