Stepping out of a black SUV which had just pulled up at the Eyewitness News Studios in Downtown Orlando comes Florida’s Number 2 Politician, the man who will run the state if something happens to Governor Rick Scott. The position does not yield the same amount of power as the number 1 slot, but in merely 4 months into office, Lt. Governor
Carlos López-Cantera has already packed a political punch.
López-Cantera has become Florida first hispanic Lt Governor. However, while an accomplishment, it isn’t something on which Lopez-Cantera wishes to hang his hat. “I am happy to help be on a ticket and appeal to an entirely different population”, Lopez-Cantera commented during a recent interview. But, in the same breath, the 40 year old former Florida legislator from Miami said graciously, “Everyone is a Floridian and should want Florida to be a better place.”
Throughout our 30 minutes together, Florida’s 19th Lt. Governor touted how great of a state Florida has become with more opportunities for businesses to shine mentioning the Governor’s trade missions to other countries during his first term, where 450 million dollars in deals were made. He also highlighted the tax cuts that have been made to help businesses across the state expand and attract out of state businesses.
“Our economy has bounced back quicker than people expected,” said Lopez-Cantera.
The Governor’s team was actually in Central Florida while en route to Port Canaveral to announce a billion dollars worth of improvements planned for all of Florida’s ports- a move, he says, will elevate Florida’s import and export business.
It was during our conversation that I learned a little more about this father of two young girls. I asked what it was like to have a job that took him away from his home in Coconut Grove where he lives with his wife of 9 years, Renee. So far this year, López-Cantera has visited parts of the state that he had never been before during his time as a South Florida Representative, such as areas in the panhandle and parts of South West and Central Florida. The distance from his family, however is a reality even more apparent during this election year.
“It’s a sacrifice that they are paying for so I can serve. I am very grateful to my wife and daughters especially my 6 year old who is now conscience of my absence,” said López-Cantera who was actually going home after his event at Port Canaveral on Friday for one night only before heading back out on the road. A sacrifice, he said, he was doing in order to spend time with his family. At times, he goes days without being home however, he tries to make it to the most important events. “With her [his 6 year old daughter] it’s about are you going to be at this or are you going to be at that,” said Lopez-Cantera adding that the extra long drives up and down Florida’s Turnpike and I-95 are worth it to see his family even if for brief moments at a time.
“I am going to make sure that tomorrow I drive 4 hours so I can be there for that ballet recital,” he said.
The Lt. Governor, who studied Political Science and Business Administration and graduated from both Miami Dade College and then the University of Miami, headed to Tallahassee to pursue a career in Politics. He was a volunteer for Bob Dole in 1996 and enjoyed his experience so much that he began his run for office as a legislator, but he lost his first race. An opportunity, according to Lopez-Cantera, that failure gave him many years ago. “It’s tough, but God has a plan. It is the best thing that could have happened to my career,” said Lopez-Cantera who ended up back in South Florida where he spent two years working for his family. “If I had won the election and been a legislator it was very possible that that weekend I met my wife I would not have been in Miami I would have been somewhere else,” adds Lopez-Cantera, with a smile.
Family is essential for López-Cantera. Born to Cuban parents, 40-year old López-Cantera was born two months premature in Spain when his mother went into labor during a vacation. He credits his passion and determination to his parents who came from Cuba with nothing at the start of the Fidel Castro Regime thinking it would be over in a few weeks. They checked into a hotel and ended up checking out a few weeks later when it was clear it was not going to be a quick revolution. “They lost everything in their 40’s,” he says, “they always reminded me of the importance of education, hard work and sacrifice,” Adding that the best part about a life in public service is being able to make something happen and fix a problem.
“The commitment and the time is key to whatever one wants to do. That is the secret,” said Lopez Cantera noting Governor Rick Scott’s administration’s commitment to developing business and creating jobs in Florida.
“This is a great state to do business in not just for Hispanic but for all backgrounds,” exclaimed Lopez Cantera, pointing out Florida’s number 2 ranking among business friendly States in CEO Magazine. The rating was given in part because of Florida’s low tax structure and policies that lean toward less government regulation.
“There are opportunities in Florida and opportunities to succeed in Florida. We want everyone to work, live, and play here because this is the place to do it. It is really beautiful to see the diversity in our state and the incredible things people are doing in Florida right now. This is the place you want to be -- a vibrant Hispanic population with a Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Venezuelan Community.”
So, what about his Spanish. Can he speak it? Is he fluent? He made the point very clear.
“Uno no puede ser electo en el sur de la Florida sin hablar Español. Hay que hacer entrevistas en Español y para mi, no hay ningun problema,” said López Cantera with just a hint of an American Accent.
- The Governor's Property Tax Reform Committee
- My Safe Florida Home Advisory Council
- Miami-Dade County Mayor's Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
- Committee on Business Regulation
- Government Affairs Committee
- Florida House of Representatives (2004-2012)
- Majority Whip (2009-2010)
- Majority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives (2010-2012)
- Miami-Dade County property appraiser (2012)
- Lt. Governor of Florida (2014)