September 22, 2010

Cabinet debates at UF canceled

The upcoming debates for the three Cabinet positions have been canceled, according to Florida Press Association president Dean Ridings. He said the campaigns of Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater never confirmed their participation in the debate. “There’s not much of a debate without either of those two,” Ridings said.

Atwater's press guy Brian Hughes e-mailed this: "The schedule in these final weeks of the campaign is packed with candidate forums, grassroots organizing, and travel around the state. There are countless requests of Jeff's time and we simply can't be everywhere all the time." Bondi had a similar statement.

Scheduled for Oct. 5 at the Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida, the other four Cabinet candidates had said they would debate, including Dan Gelber, Loranne Ausley and both Agriculture Commission candidates, Adam Putnam and Scott Maddox.

Ridings said his group, along with Leadership Florida, declined to just produce the Ag Commission debate because of logistics. The two groups are still on to produce debates for the governor's race and the U.S. Senate race at Nova Southeastern University.

September 10, 2010

Gelber calls for a team of public corruption lawyers

Pointing to the dozens of indictments of public officials, Democratic attorney general candidate Dan Gelber on Friday called for a new unit dedicated to investigating public corruption in state government.

“Floridians are really tired of the overwhelming influence of special interests, the overwhelming influence of money,” said Gelber, of Miami Beach. “They read about back-room deals that stink to high heaven, and they wonder why nothing ever happens to them.”

Gelber said the unit would consist of a mix of U.S. Department of Justice lawyers as well as a few attorneys from the state attorney general’s office. Gelber has written U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the proposal, but has not yet received a response.

Several high profile cases – such as a fancy new courthouse and the indictment of Ray Sansom – were sparked by newspaper reports. Gelber did not discuss other potential  cases, but said the team “would have plenty of work to do. And it would result in a change in the behavior of state government.”

September 07, 2010

Bondi campaign hires McCollum's spokeswoman

With less than two months before the election, Republican Pam Bondi's campaign for attorney general is hiring someone who knows the office: Sandi Copes, the current spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Copes, who is taking a two-month unpaid leave from the AG's Office, starts Wednesday as the campaign spokeswoman from Bondi's Tampa headquarters. It's her first foray in to the campaign world.

August 24, 2010

The view from camp Alex Sink

Alex Sink's supporters trickled in after 6 p.m. for the Democratic nominee's victory party in the ballroom of the Sheraton Riverwalk in Tampa. More than 100 people milled around waiting for the big announcement. After CNN declared her the winner of the democratic primary for governor, the room erupted.

She took the stage just before 8:30 p.m. and issued a challenge to whoever she would be facing in November.

"Let's debate the issues in three statewide debates," she said. "Let's call out our differences instead of calling names."

Sink told reporters her message will not change because of her opponent: "We've seen a lot of partisan bickering causing Floridians to see that there is another candidate in the race."

-- Robbyn Mitchell, Times staff writer

August 23, 2010

On a question of party unity, Bondi ducks

Pam Bondi likes to talk about how she's not a typical politician. But on a softball question about party unity, she showed the deftness of a career pol.

The Buzz put a pro forma question to all three Republican attorney general candidates: If you lose Tuesday night, will you enthusiastically support the duly elected nominee of your party?

"Absolutely," saiid Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp. "Certainly," said Kristen Bridges, a spokeswoman for Holly Benson.

But Bondi, who has voiced disgust at the brickbats tossed her way by Kottkamp, won't commit: "I haven't even thought about that. I'm focusing on winning Tuesday night," Bondi said.

-- Steve Bousquet

August 20, 2010

Poll: Pam Bondi, Dan Gelber narrowly lead attorney general's race full of undecideds

If Undecided were a candidate, he or she would win the election for Florida attorney general in a landslide.

Republican Pam Bondi and Democrat Dan Gelber have slight leads in their respective primaries, according to a new poll released Friday.

But most people still don't know whom they will support in the two races, which have failed to capture the attention of voters in a year crowded with contentious primary contests for governor and U.S. Senate.

"There's more people undecided in both races than there are people committed to a candidate," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the survey. "When you have that situation, you really can't go out and say that any of these candidates is a favorite."

The next AG will have to deal with high-profile, influential issues: a lawsuit over federal healthcare reform, Gulf oil damage claims, immigration. Yet the three Republicans and two Democrats vying to succeed GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill McCollum have struggled to resonate with voters.

Bondi, a former Tampa prosecutor and frequent commentator on Fox News, edges Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp 27 percent to 23 percent, with former state House member and municipal bond lawyer Holly Benson coming in at 22 percent. Twenty-eight percent were undecided.

Among Democrats, Gelber has pulled further ahead of fellow state Sen. Dave Aronberg. Gelber now leads 32 percent to 25 percent, with 43 percent undecided.

The poll surveyed 500 likely Republican voters and 500 likely Democratic voters statewide between Aug. 17 and 19. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent. Full story here.

August 19, 2010

Bondi already running against Gelber for AG

Republican Pam Bondi did a meet-and-greet event on  Thursday at the Florida Chamber of Commerce offices in Tallahassee. She didn't mention either of her GOP rivals (Holly Benson and Jeff Kottkamp), by name, but she did talk about facing Democrat Dan Gelber in November.

Sounding confident of capturing the Republican Party nomination next Tuesday, Bondi said: "People came to me and people felt that I was most qualified to beat Gelber, and it's probably going to be Dan Gelber in a general election, and I'll tell you what -- the more I hear about Dan Gelber, the more I learn, the last thing we need is an Eliot Spitzer-type attorney general."

She also noted that she'd continue the lawsuit against Obama-Care, while Gelber wouldn't.

Lobbyist Erik Kirk asked Bondi if she found health care is the top issue among voters. "No. Arizona," Bondi replied, referring to the state's tough crackdown on illegal immigrants. "Everywhere I go, the first question is Arizona."

Bondi has the Chamber's backing. She boarded a 40-foot motor coach for additional campaign stops in Lake City and Jacksonville before heading down the east coast on Friday morning.

-- Steve Bousquet

Holly Benson gets thumbs-up from Gingrich

It's not quite Sarah Palin, but it ain't bad either. Newt Gingrich just announced he is endorsing Holly Benson in the Republican primary for the attorney general's race. Thus far, Benson has been polling third behind Pam Bondi and Jeff Kottkamp (though there are a high number of undecideds). The nod from Gingrich could provide a boost with the election only days away...

“The next Attorney General of Florida will have to take the lead on the lawsuit challenging Obamacare,” Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, said in a release. “In my opinion, there is no one more qualified to do this than Holly Benson.  So today, I am proud to endorse Holly's candidacy for Florida Attorney General.

“I've worked with Holly, and I know she is a proven conservative that you can trust.  Because Holly worked with Governor Jeb Bush to transform Florida's Medicaid program and served as Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, she is uniquely qualified to understand the dire consequences of Obamacare for our health care system and our Constitution,” he said

“Beyond that crucial issue, Holly understands that we must reduce unnecessary regulation and fight frivolous lawsuits in order to restore our economy.  She is pro-life, rated A+ by the NRA, and like her mentor Governor Jeb Bush, is a committed free-market capitalist.  Holly Benson will make a great Attorney General for Florida, and I encourage you to consider voting for Holly on August 24."