Republican AG candidates race to the right

(Bondi did acquit herself strongly in a BayNews 9 debate this past weekend, where she was more aggressive than her opponents, and derided Kottkamp as engaging in "gutter politics" for last week leaking an e-mail from a former boyfriend who now works at the powerhouse law firm of Morgan & Morgan.  The e-mail suggested that Bondi would direct legal work to the firm if she's elected).


Jeff Kottcamp let voters know where he’s coming when he emphasized his law and order bona fides best in his television ad, a disturbing piece of handgun porn emphasizing how he has earned 21 of 28 Republican sheriffs have endorsed him in the race.


He also seems to have taken years off his visage when he shaved off his mustache prior to the campaign.  He’s also not one to take criticism lightly.  In St. Petersburg last month, he lashed out at a Tiger Bay member who asked him about a published report in 2009 that he had used a state trooper drive him and his family to suburban Atlanta for a surprise birthday party for a Tallahassee lobbyist featuring a musical performance by Kenny Loggins.


Holly Benson is a former state legislator who Governor Charlie Crist named to head first the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulations and later the Agency for Health Care Administration.  The 39-year-old Panhandle native, a Best of the Bay winner in 2009 for her comment that " just because you're poor doesn't mean you have to be unhealthy. It means you have a lot more time to go running", (a line now being used against her in a Bondi mail piece, which Benson apologized for at last weekend's debate) is a sincere, studious type who basically would keep the McCollum agenda alive.


That means, like her GOP opponents, that she supports an Arizona like illegal immigration law to come to Florida.  “Our folks need those powers,” she says, “ because if you stop somebody who is an illegal immigrant, then we haven’t given our law enforcement the tools to do anything about it.  And so you have to figure out how you extend that authority to them.  “


Kottcamp and Bondi have expressed themselves similarly, which means that when it comes down to it, Florida Republicans will choose the candidate based on whom they like and makes them feel comfortable.  And that means according to their Democratic opponents, keeping the office “politicized.”

Three Republicans –former Hillsborough County Assistant Prosecutor Pam Bondi, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottcamp, and former legislator and state agency head Holly Benson are competing for their party’s nomination to succeed Bill McCollum as Attorney General this November.

The race should be competitive, even though some analysts immediately pegged Bondi as the favorite.  That bit of punditry was based in part on her being the only candidate representing the I-4 corridor, as well as the national presence that she has cultivated by her appearances on Fox News commentating on legal issues.

Bondi has parlayed that national following into having a few major fundraisers held for her in Washington, but she hasn’t exactly dominated the money war (she had $400,000 in the bank, compared to $316,000 for Kottcamp and $274,000 for Benson at the end of July) nor ran away with endorsements.

In her television ad, Bondi emphasizes her prosecutor background, as an announcer blasts Kottcamp as a ‘personal injury lawyer/politician” and a Benson as a “bureaucrat” who’s never tried a legal case.

All three candidates are in lockstep in supporting Bill McCollum’s lawsuit that he has filed against the federal government’s health care reform bill.  They also have spoken in support of the state’s ban on gay adoption, in which Florida stands alone in the country in its discrimination against same sex couples, though Bondi has not been declarative on that, saying at a Tiger Bay event in St. Petersburg in June that she would support whatever law is on the books now or in the future.

Bondi also hasn’t been as prepared as some believe she should be.  Last month the Tampa Tribune seemed to be giving a hometown discount in endorsing her with faint praise, saying that she was “hazy on some key state issues, including growth management,” while adding that  “she needs to move beyond party talking points and show she will think for herself.”  All that came after the paper endorsed her.

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