Tampa Representative Tapped for Top Defense Post
State Rep. Michael Scionti, D-Tampa, an army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been named a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense by President Barack Obama and will be resigning his state House seat to go to Washington D.C.
Scionti announced the news Monday morning as lawmakers met in Tallahassee to consider a proposal on high speed and commuter rail.
“As much as I have enjoyed serving as a forceful advocate in the Florida Legislature for small businesses, working families, and our children and seniors, I am now compelled to serve my Commander-in-Chief in the defense of our great nation,” he said in a release.
Scionti, an attorney, was elected to the House in 2006 and re-elected without opposition in 2008. His district includes west Tampa and neighboring communities like Northeast MacFarlane, Riverside Heights, Seminole Heights and Wellswood. He spent a part of his first term in Afghanistan, and has spent much of his time in the Legislature working on legal and law enforcement issues.
He had also applied for an open U.S. Attorney spot for the Middle District of Florida this summer, but was not named as a finalist by the nominating committee.
The district is largely Democratic, with Obama, U.S Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink winning the area by large margins in their last elections, meaning it will likely stay in Democratic hands. Talk has already surfaced that Janet Rifkin, a Democratic activist in Hillsborough, is interested in running for the job in a special election.
Gov. Charlie Crist will set a special election in the coming weeks and called Obama's choice of Scionti a “great pick.”
“I'm a big fan of Mike's,” Crist said. “Obviously he's a wonderful public servant, has tremendous courage and I couldn't be happier for him and his family. He certainly deserves it and probably a lot more.”
Scionti will serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intergovernmental Affairs and Homeland Defense. He is a graduate of Florida State University and South Texas College of Law. He is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and a winner of the Bronze Star.
Scionti’s resignation takes effect at midnight on December 13, but he has requested that the speaker of the House maintain the District 58 office, until a special election can be held.
House Speaker Larry Cretul released a statement Monday morning following the announcement praising the choice of Scionti and saying the House is honored by the choice.
“We will miss his service in the House of Representatives, but are pleased at his selection for this important assignment. His education, government and military service, have prepared him well and I believe our country will be safer as a result of his future role in Washington,” Cretul said.