Gov. Charlie Crist met with state Rep. Jennifer Carroll Wednesday afternoon during a stop in Jacksonville. Carroll, the only Black Republican in the Florida House of Representatives, is one of several people under consideration by Crist for a short relief stint in the U.S. Senate as Sen. Mel Martinez quits early.
If selected, Carroll would be the first Black U.S. senator in Florida history, and only the second Black woman, after Illinois’ Carol Moseley Braun, to serve in the U.S. Senate. In the Florida Legislature, she represents Fleming Island, a community located about 15 miles southwest of Jacksonville.
Carroll, a former U.S. Navy officer, took time out from preparing to celebrate her 26th wedding anniversary with her husband, Nolan, to speak exclusively to the Florida Courier immediately after her interview at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, where Crist was touring an F-15 aircraft repair facility.
“The interview went well,” she said, estimating that she spoke to the governor for about 45 minutes. “He asked questions about legislation and policies concerning health, cap and trade, Cuba, and the military, among other things. I was fully prepared.”
Carroll said that she had gotten calls and e-mails from friends and supporters who thought she should apply for the vacant Senate seat. She didn’t apply and was “stunned” to receive a call on Tuesday from the governor’s office asking if she could have a chat with Crist about the position the next day.
Met with family
“It was unexpected. It felt like something heavy landed on my lap,” she exclaimed. “I told them that I would entertain the thought after I communicated with my family.
“They gave me the OK. My husband Nolan said, ‘It’s about time they recognized your talent,’” she grinned.
Carroll played down the historic nature – if she is appointed – of being Florida’s first Black female senator.
‘It’s what you do’
“I’ve been the ‘first Black’ for a number of things,” she explained. That’s insufficient. It’s what you do with it that really counts.” She said that if she got the appointment, she would be up to speed on day one. She mused about what her appointment would mean.
“It would be a great message, especially to our young ladies, if I were appointed and on the national scene, that anything is possible if you are prepared. When a door is open, be equipped and prepared. They should know that the world is their oyster, and that they shouldn’t limit themselves to their four walls. It would be a great way for me to help others and expand opportunities for others.”
Carroll was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and immigrated to America at age 8. She enlisted in the United States Navy in 1979 and served for 20 years before retiring as a lieutenant commander. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of New Mexico, and a master of business administration from St. Leo University. She and her husband have three children.
She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a lifetime member of both the National Rifle Association and the NAACP. Carroll was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2003 and was subsequently reelected in 2004 and 2006.
According to Carroll, Crist is looking to have his selection made prior to when Congress returns to Washington, D.C. from its summer break scheduled to end on Sept. 8.
Crist also met with University of North Florida president John Delaney while in Jacksonville. Delaney just finished a fill-in stint of his own, serving as interim university system chancellor. Delaney also is a former Jacksonville mayor.
Crist is also said to be considering former U.S. Attorney Bobby Martinez, who was previously interviewed, and the governor’s former chief of staff, George Lemieux, who was also interviewed Wednesday.
The governor has requested applications for the vacant seat from Tallahassee lobbyist and former secretary of state Jim Smith and Miami- Dade congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Diaz-Balart has told the governor he’s not interested. The names of former Lieutenant Gov. Toni Jennings and U.S Rep. Bill Young also have been mentioned as possibilities.
“The consideration in my mind is I have to appoint somebody who in my belief, number one, has great integrity, will serve our fellow Floridians with honor, and will do an incredible job of making sure that we continue to be well represented in both seats in the United States Senate,” Crist told reporters in Tallahassee Tuesday. “And those are my primary considerations that they will work very hard every day for our fellow Floridians. I want to make sure that when Congress goes back in session that the people of Florida are fully represented.”
Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio are running against each other in the Republican primary for the seat, and Kendrick Meek is currently the only major Democrat in the race.
Crist has said repeatedly that he will not name himself as the interim senator.