Rick Scott picks lawmaker Jennifer Carroll as running mate
by Steve Bousquet, Miami Herald
GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott on Thursday morning announced that state Rep. Jennifer Carroll of Jacksonville will be his running mate as lieutenant governor.
“I am honored that Jennifer is the first African-American Republican woman to be part of a statewide ticket in Florida,” Scott said.
“Jennifer Carroll is the embodiment of the American dream. She came to America as a young girl, decided to serve her country with the United States Navy, pursued a higher education, started a small business, and then was elected the first African-American female Republican in the Florida Legislature,” said Scott, who launched a new website featuring his new running mate (www.ScottCarrollforFlorida.com).
“Her conservative principles are in line with mine, and this fall we will present a clear choice between conservatives with business experience and a plan to create 700,000 jobs and liberal Obamacrats who want to bring the failed Obama agenda to Florida,” Scott said in a statement to his supporters.
In Jacksonville, the Scott campaign unfurled a “Scott Carroll” placard as Scott and Carroll stood on a platform outside the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, with a Blue Angel jet in the background.
Carroll’s husband, Nolan, and two of their three children were on hand, along with Scott’s wife, Ann, as the group faced a busy Roosevelt Boulevard.
“Jennifer has an inspiring story to tell,” Scott said. “Like me, she has lived the American dream.”
Noting that Carroll was the first African-American Republican woman in the Legislature, Scott called her a “barrier-breaker.”
Carroll, wearing a bright red suit, said she likes Scott’s “energetic leadership,” and added: “He is totally committed to turning around the economic conditions of this state.”
But she at first said Scott’s “7-7-7” plan would create 7,000 jobs over seven years, not the 700,000 Scott is promising.
Carroll was a supporter of Bill McCollum in the primary, and said she kept her word and that his jobs message resonated with her. Scott declined to discuss the vetting process in detail.
“We’re both outsiders and we both come from humble beginnings,” Scott said. “Jennifer is clearly not perceived to be an insider.”
Asked to cite her proudest accomplishment as a legislator, Carroll asked reporters to “look at my résumé,” and cited her work in lowering the burden on businesses in Florida. In choosing Carroll, a U.S. Navy veteran and mother of three, Scott gets a woman with a distinctive personal story who could neutralize the gender appeal of his Democratic opponent, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink:
• In a state where one in every seven voters is black — and nearly all are Democrats — Carroll is a black Republican.
• As a native of Trinidad, Carroll is an immigrant who could help soften Scott’s hard-line image on an issue that cuts both ways in a state with a large immigrant population.
• She packs a celebrity punch: Her son, Nolan II, is a rookie cornerback and kick returner for the Miami Dolphins, drafted out of the University of Maryland.
“She’s an immigrant and she worked her way up and she did everything through hard work. That’s very similar to Rick’s background. There’s a lot of similarities between the two of them,” said Jen Baker, Scott’s campaign spokesman.
Carroll, 51, made Gov. Charlie Crist’s short list of possible running mates in 2006, and she was among those listed as possible successors to Mel Martinez, who resigned his U.S. Senate seat last year.
Scott’s camp is aggressive in challenging what it considers off-base speculation on political blogs. When blogs named Carroll as his pick Wednesday, the campaign raised no objection.
Lieutenant governors in Florida share one common trait: obscurity. The office did not exist before 1968 and it is unique in that no job description for it exists in state law.
Sink’s running mate is Rod Smith, 60, a former state senator and elected state attorney from Alachua County who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.
Carroll moved to Florida in 1986. She and her husband, Nolan, have three children.
She became the first black Republican woman elected to the Legislature in a special election in 2003. Carroll retired after 20 years in the Navy, where she rose to the rank of lieutenant commander aviation maintenance officer.
She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in business administration from St. Leo University in Pasco County.
Her official legislative biography notes that she is a life member of both the NAACP and the National Rifle Association.
Her record is not free of blemishes, however.
Six years ago, after news reports that she listed a degree from an online “diploma mill,” Kensington University in California, she dropped the reference from her official résumé.
“This causes me great concern,” Carroll told the Florida Times-Union in 2004. “It’s a lot of time, effort and money poured into a university I thought was a viable program.”
Last spring, Carroll filed a bill regulating certain electronic sweepstakes games. The Times-Union reported that Carroll confirmed that her public relations firm, 3 N. and J.C. Corp., represented Allied Veterans of the WorldInc., a veterans’ group that sought to legalize the slot-like machines.
Carroll quickly withdrew the bill (HB 1185) and said a staff member filed the legislation without her approval.
Carroll does not have a distinguished record as a lawmaker, but has compiled a solidly pro-business voting record and was unchallenged in a bid for a fourth term this fall.
At a campaign stop in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Scott told WOKV radio he had “pretty much” made up his mind but would not stoke speculation about his choice.
“This person’s going to do a wonderful job,” Scott said. “Whoever it’s going to be, you guys will all be proud of.”
Carroll would not be the first black woman to run for the state’s No. 2 post.
In 1978, Claude Kirk, a former Republican governor seeking a comeback as a Democrat, chose Mary Singleton as his running mate, but the Kirk-Singleton ticket fared poorly.