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Charlie Crist Picks Hispanic Woman, Democrat Darling As Running Mate

MIAMI (CBSMiami) --  Charlie Crist walked hand in hand Thursday across a sun-drenched street in Miami's Wynwood area with his pick for lieutenant governor. Annette Taddeo is Hispanic, a small business owner, and chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic party.

"I think Annette's a huge asset to the ticket in every way," Crist said at the LAB, a business that helps entrepreneurs get businesses going.

"We need a change in Tallahassee," Taddeo said. "The people need a voice. I'm very excited and I'm ready for it," she said, referencing what she knows will be a tough and at times nasty battle for the Governor's mansion.

Taddeo, 46, the mother of an 8-year-old daughter, Sofie, hailed Crist as a champion of children, workers and the elderly. "I want to serve with Charlie Crist because that's who he's fought for," Taddeo said.

"We need a governor and lieutenant governor who are committed to the middle class," Crist said, "who will fight for teachers, make sure that education is a priority again, protect Florida's beautiful environment."

WATCH: Gary Nelson's Report 

A lieutenant governor is similar to first runner-up in the Miss America pageant - there only in the event the winner is unable to serve. The lieutenant governor's duties are largely ceremonial. The selection of a running mate centers chiefly on drawing votes.

Governor Rick Scott curried the Hispanic vote when he chose Carlos Lopez-Cantera as his running mate in January. Scott had gotten along fine without a lieutenant governor for ten months, after Jennifer Carroll resigned the post following revelations that she had done legal work for an illegal gambling operation.

In picking Taddeo Thursday, Crist has essentially said, "I'll see your Hispanic and raise you a woman and a Democrat with a capital "D." Crist, a Republican-turned independent-turned Democrat now has a major party player in his corner.

Crist would not directly address the value Taddeo's ethnicity and gender bring to his campaign but said, "We are a diverse state, so I'm very proud that Annette is with me today."

Taddeo ran a failed bid for congress in 2008, challenging hugely popular Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, but she still drew more than a hundred thousand votes.

Crist's selection of a ticket mate comes even before he's won the Democratic nomination. He still has a primary race to run against Broward County's Nan Rich. Rich issued a statement Thursday condemning Crist's premature selection of a running mate, calling him a life-long Republican and insisting that he debate her - something Crist has refused to do.

Party Leaders support Crist's early move.

"I think it's giving Floridians an opportunity to see what his ticket looks like early on, so they have a chance to evaluate it," said Dan Gelber, a former state senator and Democratic leader. "I think it's a wonderful choice."

The Democratic Party of Florida issued a statement heaping praise on Taddeo, saying she would make an excellent lieutenant governor.

Rick Scott's camp Thursday spoke politely of Taddeo, but slammed Crist for his party switching and his quitting after one term as governor to run for the U.S. senate as an independent.

"No matter who Charlie Crist picked, you can't get away from your record," said Senator Anitere Flores, a Miami-Dade Republican. "You can't get away from the record of 11 percent unemployment rate, and when things got tough in the state of Florida, he just ran away."


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