NPR logo New Florida Senator: Gov. Crist Picks George Lemieux, His Ex-Chief Of Staff

New Florida Senator: Gov. Crist Picks George Lemieux, His Ex-Chief Of Staff

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has chosen George Lemieux to replace resigning Sen. Mel Martinez.

The announcement came late this morning. Lemieux is Crist's former chief of staff.

According to Beth Reinhard and Marc Caputo of the St. Petersburg Times:

In choosing LeMieux, Crist signaled that personal loyalty and political instincts mattered more than any potential perception of cronyism.

What's more, the clean-cut, well-spoken, 40-year-old LeMieux could serve as an effective surrogate for Crist on the campaign trial. LeMieux was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale and served as chairman of the Broward Republican Party from 2000 to 2002.

The two men have been in lockstep since 2002, when Crist was elected Florida attorney general and made LeMieux his deputy. LeMieux went on to earn the nickname "the maestro'' for orchestrating Crist's successful gubernatorial campaign and served as his right-hand-man for one year. Even after he left the Capitol for the Gunster Yoakley & Stewart law firm, LeMieux remained one of Crist's most trusted confidantes.

In a sign of how fast LeMieux's star has risen, he beat out former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw — his former boss during a college internship — for the Senate post. The other names on Crist's shortlist were former Secretary of State Jim Smith, former U.S. Attorney Roberto Martinez, former U.S. Reps. Mike Bilirakis and Lou Frey, state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, former state Sen. Dan Webster and University of North Florida President John Delaney.

Lemieux will serve only until January of 2011, when Martinez's term would have expired. Lemieux agreed to be the caretaker appointee while Crist is campaigning for the full six-year Senate term. He will face former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in next August's primary.

Democrats in the race include two sitting members of Congress, both African-American: Kendrick Meek and Corrine Brown. Meek is clearly in the contest to stay; I'm not sure the same can be said about Brown, who officially is just "exploring" the race.

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