Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott has boosted his already skyrocketing campaign by making an historic running mate selection.
“I am very pleased to announce that Jennifer Carroll is joining me on this campaign to change Florida for the better,” Scott announced Thursday. “She is the embodiment of the American Dream. She came to America as a young girl, decided to serve her country with the United States Navy, pursued a higher education, started a small business and then was elected the first African-American female Republican in the Florida State Legislature.”
With the announcement, Carroll becomes only the second black and first-ever black woman to run for lieutenant governor in Florida.
“I want to thank Rick Scott for the opportunity to join him in this race as his pick for lieutenant-governor,” Carroll said. “Floridians are ready to elect a conservative outsider with private sector experience and a plan to create 700,000 jobs.”
“Rick and I share core conservative principles like lower taxes, less regulation, and smaller government,” Carroll said. “I look forward to campaigning with Rick against Alex Sink, Rod Smith and their liberal agenda.”
Like Carroll, Scott is a Navy veteran and the formal announcement of her selection came at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville.
Carroll, 51, lives in Fleming Island Hill, which is located southwest of Jacksonville on the western banks of the St. John’s River in unincorporated Clay County.
She has been in the Legislature since 2003, representing District 13 which includes parts of Duval and Clay counties. A business owner, she operates 3N & JC Corporation which distributes office stationary and school supplies.
Born in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, Carroll immigrated to the U.S. as a child with her family. She enlisted in the Navy, eventually becoming an officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. She went on the serve 20 years in the Navy. She is a married mother of three children. One of those children is kick returner/cornerback Nolan Carroll II, a fifth round draft pick out of the University of Maryland by the Miami Dolphins this year.
Gov. Charlie Crist considered Carroll as his running mate four years ago. She was also on his shortlist for the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat after Mel Martinez resigned in 2009. The Scott-Carroll ticket will face off against Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and her running mate Rod Smith in the November general elections.
Smith, 60, is a former state senator and state’s attorney for Alachua County. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006.
Reaction to the Carroll selection was positive, including from Democrats.
State Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, who serves with Carroll in the Legislature, said her selection was a game changer and cautioned the Sink-Smith campaign must take her seriously.
“I think she is an exceptional individual and she is going to create a buzz in the black community. The Democratic Party can’t take her lightly,” said Thurston, who has endorsed the Sink-Smith ticket. “She definitely creates a spark but when you go into the voting booth, you vote for the top of the ticket.”
“Her selection definitely increases the likelihood of Scott picking up additional votes in the short term, but I don’t see blacks voting for him in any great numbers.”
Pat Mellerson, a Miami-Dade County precinct committeewoman and president of the Homestead-Florida City Democratic Club, shares that view.
“I’m always excited when we are given an opportunity as a woman, particularly a black,” said Mellerson, adding that Sink and Smith “will now have to campaign heavily in black communities and really reached out, surrogates will not do.”
Republicans were of course thrilled with the pick.
“I think it’s just fantastic,” said Clarence McKee, president/CEO of McKee Communications located in Broward County. “It brings him someone who has a lot of respect and acute knowledge of state government. She is a role model who will be well received.”
Elgin Jones may be reached at EJones@SFLTimes.com.
Photo: Jennifer Carroll