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Midterm Elections 2018

Meet Carlos Lopez-Cantera: Florida’s first Jewish governor (for five days)

“Now, you may not have known this from my name, Lopez-Cantera, but I’m Jewish. My father came from Cuba, but he married a nice Jewish girl in Miami, and I followed suit,” says Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Fla. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera; to his left is Florida Gov. Rick Scott, soon to be senator. Credit: Screenshot.
Fla. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera; to his left is Florida Gov. Rick Scott, soon to be senator. Credit: Screenshot.

With Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson conceding his re-election bid on Sunday to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, the state will have its first Jewish governor on an interim basis for five days when Scott is sworn into the Senate on Jan. 3, 2019.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Republican, will also become the Sunshine State’s first Cuban-American governor when Scott becomes senator until former Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis, a fellow Republican who defeated Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in a contentious race, is sworn in as governor on Jan. 8, 2019.

“Theoretically, Scott could delay being sworn in as a senator, but that risks his seniority in the Senate, placing him in a tier below every other senator elected this fall, instead of on equal footing with them,” according to The Capitolist.

Lopez-Cantera—whose wife, Renee, and mother are Jewish, while his father is Catholic—had a bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in 2016 and put on tefillin two years beforehand as Republican Majority Leader.

“Now, you may not have known this from my name, Lopez-Cantera, but I’m Jewish,” he said at a ceremonial signing of Florida’s anti-BDS bill in 2016. “My father came from Cuba, but he married a nice Jewish girl in Miami, and I followed suit and married a nice Jewish girl in Miami as well. … We keep a Jewish household and are raising our daughters Jewish.”

Nearly 650,000 Jews reside in Florida—the majority in Southeast Florida—representing about 3.4 percent of the state’s population and growing.

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