SARASOTA - The investigation into Florida’s so-called internet café’s also brought a sudden and stunning end to Jennifer Carroll's job as the state's lieutenant governor. Though some hoped she would play a significant role in the future of state politics, that has now passed, and it had begun even before the scandal.
Election Night 2010 was Ricks Scott's time. It was also Jennifer Carroll's time. Scott's lieutenant governor had become the first African-American to win state-wide office in Florida. It completed the ascendance for the woman born in Trinidad, who became a decorated 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, and served seven years in the Florida House.
She had lived her own advice. “Be prepared, get an education, never stop learning, never stop advancing; because when the opportunity comes, you want to be able to walk through the door,” she told ABC 7 in January.
Less than two years after taking office, Carroll walks out the door…in disgrace.
“Here's what we know today. She was involved in a company we know has been involved in criminal activity,” says Governor Scott.
Even before the internet cafe company that Carroll had once done marketing work for faced charges of running a gambling and money laundering operation, her star had dimmed in the governor's administration. “She was already a liability because everybody seemed to think she was doing pretty darn poorly at a pretty easy job,” says Richard Skinner, a New College professor.
Last year, an ex-employee claimed Carroll -- a married mother of three -- had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer. Carroll flatly denied it, but that kind of distraction from Scott's agenda had already spurred speculation that Scott would drop her from the ticket when he runs for re-election next year.
Carroll vowed in a statement that she would not leave public life. But after rising to the statewide stage, it will take a lot to recover from such a spectacular tumble off of it.
“But obviously her career is over now,” says Skinner.
Skinner believes that as long as no one else in Scott's administration gets tainted by this scandal, it probably won't do him long-term harm. But it does pain Republicans who had someone who put a different face on the party often seen as that of old white men.