Standing next to Gov. Charlie Crist's famously tanned mug, George LeMieux looks positively pasty, like a British-transfer student on the first day of spring break. But no one cared this afternoon at Fort Lauderdale City Hall, where Crist anointed LeMieux the state's new U.S. Senator. For what he lacked in skin pigmentation, LeMieux made up for in boot-thumping conservatism.
"I'm pro-life, I'm pro-gun, I'm pro family," LeMieux assured the cheering crowd that filled the city commission chambers. "I'm good on all those issues."
Don't worry, it's only temporary. In tapping LeMieux, Crist made certain he won't have any competition from the incumbent in his quest to win next year's Republican nomination for the Senate seat. He also earned the wrath of pundits of all political stripes who had hoped that when Senator Mel Martinez stepped down, Crist might replace him with...oh anyone other than his former chief of staff and deputy attorney general.
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The arrangement smacks so strongly of cronyism that it makes the whole Dick Cheney/ Halliburton thing seem quaint. And nothing exemplifies the back-slapping theme of the day more than the crowd of supporters that came out to cheer LeMieux, who grew up in Broward, at City Hall.
There was the normal gaggle of TV reporters and Republican operatives, a smattering of curly-haired children, and plenty of young, eager-looking people in dark suits and heels. But the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of all were lawyers holding white signs saying "We are proud of you George!" One of the sign-holders wore an orange t-shirt with the words "Gunster, Yoakley" emblazoned on the front. It was a fitting symbol for the day.
LeMieux is chairman of the Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart law firm, which has enormous influence in Tallahassee and won a $500,000 state contract just as LeMieux was stepping down as Crist's chief of staff. With LeMieux in the Senate seat, his firm is sure to keep prospering. Welcome to Washington, Senator LeMieux.