TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Charlie Crist has chosen his former chief of staff to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.
George LeMieux is Crist’s closest political adviser. The selection indicates that Crist wants someone who thinks like he does to hold the Senate seat that Crist seeks to win in the November 2010 election.
In making his selection, Crist chose trust and loyalty over experience in Washington or potential political gain, according to The Associated Press.
Martinez announced in December he would not seek a second term. Earlier this month, he said he would step down after Crist found a replacement.
Martinez is expected to make a final floor speech on the morning of Sept. 9 before he officially steps down and LeMieux is sworn in.
LeMieux served as deputy attorney general under Crist. He left that job to run Crist’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
Once in office as governor, Crist picked LeMieux to serve as his chief of staff. LeMieux left that position in December 2007. He has since worked for the statewide law firm Gunster, and Crist still seeks his advice on political and policy issues, the AP reported.
LeMieux was born and raised in Broward County and was twice elected the county’s Republican Party chairman. He ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat in 1998.
Crist faces former House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary next August. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is the only major Democrat in the race, though Rep. Corrine Brown has formed a committee to explore a Senate run.
The AP reported that Meek and Rubio both criticized Crist for picking a political insider rather than someone with more experience. They argued that Crist has put his own ambitions ahead of the state, according to the AP.
Pictured above are George LeMieux, left, and Gov. Charlie Crist, right.