Will George LeMieux Be Crist's Harriet Miers?

Crist and Martinez, whose Senate vacancy may be filled by the governor's "maestro."
Crist and Martinez, whose Senate vacancy may be filled by the governor's "maestro."

That's the first name that popped into my head when I heard that Crist was serious about tapping his former chief of staff, George LeMieux, Broward County's most connected political player, to serve the remainder of Mel Martinez's term in the U.S. Senate.

Harriet Miers, of course, was White House counsel under George W. Bush. Her selection by Bush for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court was one of the most surreal moments of that administration -- a disgraceful gesture revealing the president's priority for loyalty and predictability over the legal experience, intellectual rigor, and judgment necessary for that role in government. Even Bush's fellow Republicans were appalled.

And yet it's been 24 hours since Crist's people have floated the LeMieux trial balloon, and no one seems to be reaching for their bazookas.

On second thought, Miers might be a bad analogy. To pay proper homage to the role LeMieux has played in making Crist the Candidate, the only comparison is Karl Rove.

Granted, LeMieux may not be capable of the chicanery that Rove was, but like Rove, he was the architect of a victorious campaign that surprised rivals with its viciousness. Like Rove, LeMieux followed his candidate into the executive mansion. And though LeMieux left his chief of staff position for the private sector in late 2007, he never really stopped working for Crist.

As chairman of the Tallahassee law firm Gunster, Yoakley, LeMieux has been close to major policies of the governor. That firm brokered the deal with U.S. Sugar for the mammoth (and deeply flawed) Everglades purchase. Currently, LeMieux is in the thick of negotiations for a compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Not that he tends exclusively to the big issues. LeMieux also appreciates more intimate political environs. In a Juice post last week, we caught a peek of him pulling puppet strings at the North Broward Hospital District.

"I'm a Charlie Crist Republican," LeMieux declared yesterday to Sun-Sentinel writer Josh Hafenbrack. Not quite, but I'd believe it if Crist told me "I'm a George LeMieux Republican."

A year before he expects to win his campaign to become Florida's U.S. senator, Crist knows that he can't appoint himself to Martinez's Senate chair. But if he appoints LeMieux, that's virtually the same thing.

There may not be a deep bench among Florida Republicans to choose from, especially when you concede that the governor would be foolish to appoint someone who could challenge him in 2010. But in today's St. Pete Times, the editorial page makes a credible argument for C.W. Bill Young, a Republican who has tons of experience in Washington and appears to have the temperament for the job. I was only half-serious when I suggested Bob Smith, but he too would be a more responsible choice than LeMieux.

The absence of furious reaction to LeMieux's candidacy just might be the invitation that Crist needs to pull the trigger.


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