Delaney remains UNF president after recently earning US Senate seat candidacy from Gov. Charlie Crist


Gov. Charlie Crist named his chief of staff George LeMieux to the U.S. Senate Aug. 31. The Fort Lauderdale native was chosen for the seat over UNF President John Delaney.

LeMieux, 40, is the interim replacement to retiring first-term Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla. Crist is running for the same Senate seat in 2010. LeMieux himself vowed Aug. 28 not to run when his term ended.

“I think the governor thought that it was awkward and embarrassing to name yourself [as senator], and I think there was good reason to feel that way,” UNF Political Science Professor Henry Thomas said. “His plan B was to try and identify people who could do a good job but would not be interested in the position long term. He certainly didn’t want to appoint someone who he would later have to fight for the position.”

Shortly after the announcement, Crist and LeMieux flew to Fort Lauderdale where the new senator was met by hundreds of well-wishers at City Hall, who gave him a standing ovation.

Crist’s decision bared charges of cronyism from many Democrats and even some of his fellow Republicans, who explicated the choice as self-serving.

“Of course he wanted somebody with politics that were not dissimilar to his,” Delaney said. “I think [Crist’s] decision was to appoint somebody that would govern the way [he] plans on governing and would vote the way [he] plans on voting.”

Delaney was listed on the ‘short list’ of candidates for the senate seat and was very close to being chosen, he said.

“I got a call last week — Wednesday [Aug. 26] — and was asked if I could go to Tallahassee that day, and at that point they’d had it down to two names,” Delaney said.

Crist and LeMieux personally interviewed Delaney that day, where they asked him questions about almost everything: Israel, health care, taxes, the Iranian election, gun control, abortion, the environment and even the approval process of U.S. Supreme Court justices, Delaney said.

If Delaney had been chosen, he most likely would have taken a leave of absence from the university until his senate term ended, he said.

Thomas said that while Delaney’s absence would be felt around campus, he did not think it would cause any negative repercussions but rather an opposite effect.

“I think that John felt that he could make friends for the university in [Washington D.C.]; that a stream of — if not immediate — then long-term benefits would flow,” Thomas said.

But the fact remains that Delaney, no matter how close he could have possibly been, was not chosen, and why?

As a Republican, many of Delaney’s political and policy views were similar to Crist’s, but LeMieux had something Delaney did not — trust and friendship, Delaney said.

“Senator LeMieux is a very, very, very close personal friend to Charlie. I heard him quoted as saying he knows his soul,” he said.

But Delaney isn’t crying over his coffee — he has more important things to deal with, and to be honest, he was ‘relieved’ when he found out he wasn’t chosen, he said.

“The idea of serving even temporarily in the greatest deliberative body in the history of democracy — it sure is a tantalizing thing,” Delaney said.

Other than not having to deal with the responsibilities of a senator, Delaney named his family and UNF as the other two reasons he’s glad to remain in Jacksonville.

“I think the next five years [as president] are going to be a lot more fun than the last 24 months [with the budget cuts]. I think the future of higher education is really, really positive in Florida,” he said.