When Jennifer Carroll took the oath of office on Jan. 4, 2011 as Florida’s first black lieutenant governor, she stepped into a role that generally has little influence in state politics but which she could have turned into an advocate for black Floridians.
Instead, on Tuesday, after just over two years in office, Ms. Carroll resigned after she was questioned by law enforcement over her relationship with an Internet cafe operation whose owner has been arrested on racketeering charges. There was no indication that she has been charged with any crime. But her brief journey from being the top black elected official to her resignation in obvious disgrace holds a salutary lesson of promise unfulfilled.
Like Gov. Rick Scott, who chose Ms. Carroll as his running mate for the 2010 election, she is a Republican. Expecting much from her by way of promoting the causes of black Floridians would have been asking a lot. But she at least knows the score. She came from humble beginnings in Trinidad and Tobago. She has family ties to Miami’s Liberty City. She has proved that she can face challenges head-on and win. She had the ear of Gov. Scott. But it soon became evident that those who insisted that he picked her just for window-dressing were correct.
Most recently, she chaired a panel that supposedly examined whether the controversial “stand your ground” law should be amended or repealed. That study was prompted by the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, with his killer seeking refuge in that law. Despite vigorous protests, especially from blacks, the commission concluded that nothing is wrong with the law as it stands.
Instead of pushing an agenda that included black Floridians, she offered a bill to benefit Internet cafes – an apparent self-serving move. Faced with an allegation that she was found in a compromising position with an aide in her office, she insulted black gay women.
The real tragedy, though, is that some black voters were no doubt led to support Mr. Scott for governor because of Ms. Carroll’s presence on the ticket. For them, the lesson is, once again, to be vigilant and informed and to make wise choices come election time.