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Crist Reportedly Set To Appoint Former Aide To Senate

The AP is reporting that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will appoint his former chief of staff, George LeMieux, to replace Mel Martinez in the U.S. Senate. A formal announcement will come at 11:15 am. The Miami Herald also reported that LeMieux was the likely pick, adding these details:

In choosing LeMieux, Crist signaled that personal loyalty and political instincts mattered more than any potential perception of cronyism.

What's more, the clean-cut, well-spoken, 40-year-old LeMieux could serve as an effective surrogate for Crist on the campaign trial. LeMieux was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale and served as chairman of the Broward Republican Party from 2000 to 2002.

The two men have been in lockstep since 2002, when Crist was elected state attorney general and made LeMieux his deputy. LeMieux went on to earn the nickname, ''the maestro'' for orchestrating Crist's successful gubernatorial campaign and served as his right-hand-man for one year. Even after he left the Capitol for the Gunster Yoakley & Stewart law firm, LeMieux remained one of Crist's most trusted confidantes.

UPDATE: Florida Democrats are responding by accusing Crist of playing "political games with the public's trust" by appointing LeMieux. Read an excerpt of their statement after the jump.

"This glaring example of political cronyism is the last thing Florida needed while we face these tough economic times and the Congress is tackling critical issues such as health insurance reform and global warming.

"In appointing LeMieux, someone who has made millions over the past several years selling access to Crist to the highest bidders among Tallahassee's special interests, Charlie Crist once again put his own political ambition above doing what is right for Florida.

"Floridians are sick of the Republican culture of corruption and the Tallahassee back room dealings that clearly led Crist to pick LeMieux, whose only qualification is being Charlie Crist's crony."