Gov. Charlie Crist has chosen his political shadow and former chief of staff, George LeMieux, to stand in as Florida's U.S. senator until Crist can seek the seat himself in the 2010 election.
The governor's office will announce the decision at 11:15 a.m. Friday in Tallahassee. Crist has said that he wanted his appointment to have some time to get ready before Congress reconvenes on Sept. 8.
Crist faced the delicate task of filling a seat he is running for after Sen. Mel Martinez announced three weeks ago that he was stepping down. 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 trail. 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.
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