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Bondi's support of judicial campaign draws criticism

Bondi TamayoAttorney General Pam Bondi's endorsement of Leon County Circuit Judge Josefina Tamayo's campaign has drawn the ire of a local county commissioner who thinks she should butt out.

Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor said he will file complaints both with the Judicial Qualifications Commission regarding Tamayo's campaign and the Florida Bar regarding Bondi's actions, television station WTXL reported Thursday.

Bondi defended herself in a statement to the Herald/Times today and reiterated her support for Tamayo: "I am committed to a judiciary that is fair, balanced and renders justice to all. Therefore, I wholeheartedly endorse Judge Tamayo whom I've knownfor two decades to be an honest and ethical attorney.  Since she has been a Circuit Judge, she has maintained her humility as well as her great integrity."

Tamayo was appointed to the circuit court by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010 to fill a vacancy created by another judge's retirement. Before that, she served as general counsel for various state agencies and also was a prosecutor, like Bondi. She is now running for election in what is a nonpartisan race, facing attorney Barbara Hobbs in the November runoff. The race has grown increasingly nasty with each side accusing the other of misleading or inappropriate campaigning.

Proctor said Bondi crossed the line when she hosted a fundraiser for Tamayo because many cases involving the state, and therefore Bondi as the chief law enforcement officer, are filed in Tamayo's Second Judicial Circuit. Bondi's office declined to say when or where the fundraiser took place and efforts to reach Tamayo's campaign were unsuccessful.

"The credibility of the Second Judicial Circuit stands to suffer if sitting Judges as candidates are openly allowed to be financially supported with fundraisers hosted by the State‘s Attorney General," Proctor wrote in a letter to Chief Judge Charles Francis. "Given the frequency and importance of the litigation involving the State of Florida represented by the Attorney General, it can be viewed as a conflict of interests, this new and dubious practice."

Bondi's office says that Tamayo is one of two judicial candidates she has endorsed. The other is Frances Perrone, a former prosecutor elected to Hillsborough County court in August. Bondi has also not taken a position on the merit retention votes of three state Supreme Court justices.

UPDATE: Tamayo campaign spokesman John Reid sent over a statement:

"Commissioner Proctor's allegation is unfounded. The event in question was nonpartisan and attended by individuals of all political affiliations who support Judge Tamayo due to her qualifications."

Bondi Tamayo