- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday chose former chief of staff George LeMieux to replace U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.

Mr. LeMieux, 40, left the post in 2007 to return to practicing law but remains one of Mr. Crist’s closest political advisers.

“George LeMieux has the proven strength of character and record of leadership Floridians can trust will serve our state well in the coming months,” said Mr. Crist, a Republican who plans to run for the open Senate seat in November 2010.

Before serving as Mr. Crist’s chief of staff, Mr. LeMieux was his deputy attorney general, then campaign manager in Mr. Crist’s successful 2006 gubernatorial run.

“I congratulate George LeMieux for being appointed by the governor to fill the remainder of my term,” said Mr. Martinez, a Republican, who in December said he would not seek re-election in the November 2010 election. “George is bright, capable and an accomplished administrator. My staff and I stand ready to ensure a smooth transition.”

Mr. Martinez said earlier this month he would step down when Mr. Crist found a replacement. He was the first Cuban native to be elected to the Senate and was Housing Department secretary under President George W. Bush.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen L. Thurman called the choice a “glaring example of political cronyism” and “the last thing Florida needed” while residents are facing tough economic times and Congress is tackling such critical issues as health-insurance reform and global warming.

“In appointing LeMieux, someone who has made millions over the past several years selling access to Crist to the highest bidders among Tallahassee’s special interests, Charlie Crist once again put his own political ambition above doing what is right for Florida,” she said. “Floridians are sick of the Republican culture of corruption and the Tallahassee back room dealings that clearly led Crist to pick LeMieux, whose only qualification is being Charlie Crist’s crony.”

Mr LeMieux is married to wife Meike. He graduated from Emory University and earned a law degree from Georgetown University.

He is now chairman of the Tallahassee law firm Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A., where he began practicing law. The firm specializing in business litigation.

Mr. LeMieux has never been elected to a public office but was elected chairman of the Broward County Republican Party in 2000.

Among those on Mr. Crist’s shortlist were former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack; U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and C.W. Bill Young; former U.S. Reps. Mike Bilrakis, Lou Frey and Clay Shaw and Susan Story, chief executive officer of Gulf Power.

The great Floridians who we considered for this appointment are honorable men and women of great integrity and I thank them all for their wisdom and their candor as we have gone through this process, Mr. Crist said.

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