Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll’s abrupt resignation spares Gov. Rick Scott a decision he was expected to eventually make — to drop her as his running mate in 2014.
Carroll’s military background and race brought diversity to the ticket in 2010, but she had become a political liability by violating the cardinal rule of her office.
She became an embarrassment to Scott and a distraction from his agenda.
Scott does not plan to name a successor to Carroll until after the legislative session ends in early May, aides said. In the absence of a lieutenant governor, Attorney General Pam Bondi is next in line of succession if the governor cannot serve. It will be the first time since it was re-created in 1968 that the office will have been vacant for so long.
But the guessing game has already begun and will intensify as the days go by, and that too will be a distraction for Scott, who wants to focus on a pay raise for teachers and a sales tax break for manufacturing equipment purchases.
The latest sign of Carroll’s growing irrelevance came last week. In Scott’s annual State of the State address to the Legislature, Carroll merited only a passing, one-sentence mention. The Miami port director, Bill Johnson, received more time than that.
More recently, Carroll and Scott rarely spoke face to face, and they did not even speak when she quit.
Carroll told Scott’s chief of staff and general counsel she was stepping down Tuesday afternoon in the midst of a widening racketeering investigation of an Jacksonville Internet sweepstakes cafe network that had employed her as a marketing consultant. The aides then told Scott.
In one of her last public appearances at a dinner honoring Scott two weeks ago, Carroll gushed about how well she and Scott clicked when they first met in 2010.
“We couldn’t stop talking,” Carroll told the Florida Federation of Republican Women. Later that day, she said, he phoned her and asked her to be his running mate.
“I was stunned. I asked him, 'Are you sure?’ ” And he goes, 'Well, yes,’ ” recalled Carroll, who said she needed time before agreeing to take the job.