JACKSONVILLE — JACKSONVILLE — Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott named Jacksonville state Rep. Jennifer Carroll as his running mate Thursday, hoping she can attract votes from blacks and women, both traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Carroll, 51, is a Navy veteran and mother of three who in 2003 was the first black female Republican elected to the Florida Legislature. If elected with Scott, she'll become the state's first black lieutenant governor.
"She's a history-maker and a barrier-breaker," Scott said in introducing Carroll at a news conference in front a Blue Angels jet displayed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
The Green Cove Springs resident — who backed Scott's opponent, Bill McCollum, in the primary — is expected to help him by appealing to the state's black voters and to women who might gravitate to Democratic nominee Alex Sink because of her gender. In a tight election, that could be key even if she pulls only a few percentage points.
Asked whether she thought she was picked to reach out to certain demographics, Carroll said, "I would hope I'd bring a whole lot more than that to the ticket.
"Rick and I share a common vision for the state of Florida," she said. "It's about jobs, jobs, jobs."
Sink said she doesn't think Scott's diverse ticket will impact her sway with blacks and women.
"I think people, when they go to vote, they're past all these gender and racial issues," Sink said. "They're really looking at the candidates and the messages and the commitments that the candidates have to changing the future of Florida."
An immigrant from Trinidad, Carroll served 20 years in the U.S. Navy, working as a jet mechanic before retiring as a lieutenant commander. Elected to the state House in 2003, she's served as deputy majority leader and majority whip. She's also a former executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs. She moved to Florida in 1986 and currently runs a public-relations consulting business.
Her 23-year-old son, Nolan Carroll II, is a rookie defensive back with the Miami Dolphins after being selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft out of the University of Maryland.
Scott, a multimillionaire former hospital company CEO who never ran for office before, beat McCollum in the Aug. 24 primary after a bitter campaign that saw Scott spend around $50 million of his own money blanketing the state with his TV commercials.
Scott presented himself to voters as an outsider who was bucking the Tallahassee establishment. This week he's been on a "unity tour" of the state with Republican leaders who had supported McCollum in the primary.
Carroll acknowledged that she endorsed McCollum before Scott jumped into the race in April and stuck with him until the end. But she said she met Scott a few weeks ago and came away impressed.
Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown said Carroll "fills the bill" as far as appealing to demographics where Scott is weaker. He doesn't think Carroll can be considered one of the "insiders" that Scott targeted with scorn during the campaign.
"She was in the Legislature, but nobody will confuse her with being a smoke-filled-room insider," Brown said. "She is not the conventional choice."
The governor's race became a two-person contest Wednesday when independent candidate Lawton "Bud" Chiles III dropped out and threw his support to Sink.