What did Jennifer Carroll think would happen after millionaire candidate Rick Scott plucked her out of obscurity to run for lieutenant governor?
Readers will hope to get some of those answers to that four-year-old question from Carroll, who is back on the scene doing interviews in anticipation of the publication of her autobiography, When You Get There, about growing up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, emigrating to the United States, and living in Brooklyn, and serving in the military and in politics. The book could have been titled From Obscurity and Back.
I haven’t read the book, but I’ve browsed the table of contents and introduction – including a two-and-a-half-page listing of friends she wants to thank. Carroll might have had terrible political instincts but her media timing isn’t bad. Her book is being published as the lead-in to the main event, Gov. Rick Scott vs. former Gov. Charlie Crist. It’s bound to generate chatter.
The last time we heard from Carroll, she was being ushered out of office in the wake of an FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation of links between Carroll’s old consulting firm and the charity, Allied Veterans of the World. Carroll was questioned by FDLE agents but never arrested or charged.
According to Carroll, after the FDLE agents left her office, Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, showed up with a one-sentence letter of resignation for her to sign. Within minutes she was history. This autobiography is Carroll’s version of the rest of her story.
Based on media reports, the book also details Carroll’s attempts to recruit more African Americans to Scott’s cause. Scott won by a mere 62,000 votes, including 6 percent of the black vote – that looks like a margin of victory. However, Carroll felt Scott showed neither gratitude for her contributions nor empathy for her pain – after she fell and hit her head. Scott’s staff treated her as a “step-child.” The better term is token.
Imagine having a Scott deputy in all of the lieutenant governor’s meetings? How patronizing. Scott’s putting Carroll on his ticket is one of the most cynical political ploys in recent years. Belatedly, she tried to ask why she was picked but never received a satisfactory answer. Neither will we. Carroll chose to look the gift horse in the mouth and got kicked in the behind.
Of course, there are some deeper issues than just gubernatorial politics. There are missed opportunities. The Republican Party is attractive to some socially conservative Caribbean immigrants, like Carroll, who are also drawn to the GOP message about accountability and self-reliance. But Scott’s treatment of her serves as a warning to others seduced by the bright lights on the podium.
In the end, Carroll’s story is bookended by two B’s: She felt betrayed and belittled. What else did she expect? Her naiveté leaves us simply befuddled.
Andrew J. Skerritt is author of Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial and the AIDS Epidemic in the South. He lives in Tallahassee. Follow him on Twitter @andrewjskerritt.