Carlos Lopez-Cantera to announce U.S. Senate bid in Miami today

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Senate on Wednesday in Miami, making him the third Republican to enter the race, with more expected to follow.

In doing so, he’s attempting to reverse a negative trend when it comes to advancing from being second-in-command in Florida. Since the state reestablished the position in 1968, four previous lieutenant governors have lost while running for higher office, with Jeff Kotkamp being the latest example in 2010, when he attempted to become attorney general but lost out to Pam Bondi.

The 41-year-old Lopez-Cantera has an interesting background. Born in Spain, Lopez-Cantera is both Cuban and Jewish. After graduating from the University of Miami in 1996, he lost his first bid for state office in 2002 when he fell short of winning a seat in the state House of Representatives. He was elected to the House in the 113th District in 2004, and was re-elected three more times, and was the House Majority Leader from 2010 to 2012.

After being term-limited out of the House, he ran for and won as property appraiser in Miami-Dade County in 2012.

In January of 2014, Lopez-Cantera left his position in Miami-Dade to accept Rick Scott’s request that he serve as his lieutenant governor/running mate in the 2014 election, succeeding Jennifer Carroll, who resigned 10 months earlier following allegations that she was involved in an effort to steer money into Internet cafes.

Lopez-Cantera telegraphed his serious interest in the race back in April, when it was announced that he had created a super-PAC called Reform Washington, which can and has presumably been raising unlimited contributions for his candidacy. Another indication that he was running was his appearance last month at the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner in Tampa.

The fact that the job sat empty for nearly a year exposed to those who weren’t paying attention how insignificant the job is in terms of responsibilities. While previous governors have given their lieutenant governors plum assignments to tackle, Scott has taken a decidedly hands-off approach with Lopez-Cantera. That’s proving to be a political problem, however, as there have been a variety of stories in the print media over the past month reflecting on how empty Lopez-Cantera’s public schedule actually is.

And Lopez-Cantera has done nothing to rebut those stories.

He better get used to it, though, because surely his opponents will make note of it in a contested Senate primary.

So far only Jacksonville U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and former CIA contractor Todd Wilcox have announced their candidacies for the GOP Senate position in 2016.

That’s expected to change, however, within the next week. Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly is expected to announce his candidacy next week, and Panhandle-area U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller is expected to announce soon as well.

Lopez-Cantera is scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m. at All-American Containers in Miami.

Lopez-Cantera’s camp has released these announcement videos. Watch here in English and here in Spanish.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.