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Wall Street Journal blasts Charlie Crist’s pick of George LeMieux as ‘Cronyism’

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From the Wall Street Journal: Democrats have embarrassed themselves by naming political buddies to replace Joe Biden and Barack Obama in the Senate, and now a Republican is showing he can do the same. On Friday, Florida Governor Charlie Crist picked a long-time aide and political consultant to fill his state’s soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat, presumably as a placeholder until Mr. Crist can win the job himself in November 2010.

The Florida vacancy is due to the strange decision by Republican Mel Martinez to abandon his post early for no other reason than that he seems sick of the job. His departure couldn’t come at a worst time given that Republicans have only 40 seats and need every one of them to stop the most radical expansion of government in two generations.

That makes it all the more puzzling that Mr. Crist bypassed well known Republicans in favor of selecting his former campaign manager and chief of staff George LeMieux. The 40-year-old Mr. LeMieux ran Mr. Crist’s campaign for governor in 2006 and is famous for saying about Mr. Crist that “we make decisions together,” adding that “he’s the senior partner and I’m the junior partner.” He quickly said he has no plans to run for Senate in his own right and has declared that “the Charlie Crist way” is “the way we need to address things in Washington.”

What that means on crucial legislation is anyone’s guess, given Mr. Crist’s protean politics. The governor has driven private property and casualty insurers out of the state by expanding a government-favored public option for hurricane insurance. He also made a show of endorsing President Obama’s $800 billion “stimulus” earlier this year. With a health-care public option in the balance in coming weeks, no one seems to know how Mr. LeMieux might vote.

Mr. Crist is running for Senate in his own right next year, and he faces a primary challenge from former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who called the choice of Mr. LeMieux “disappointing.” Democrats called it “political cronyism” and it’s hard to disagree. Florida voters have a right to expect more than a mini-me appointee to serve for 16 months in what could be a momentous Congress. Mr. Crist’s Senate choice is another reason to wonder if his principles extend beyond his own political ambitions.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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