ST. PETERSBURG — Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp said Thursday he has been virtually locked out of the governor's office since Charlie Crist announced in April that he was leaving the Republican Party.
"He's my friend," Kottkamp, a Republican running for attorney general, said of Crist. "But I don't see him very often."
Kottkamp described his role in the administration as "far less" than what it had been just a few months ago.
"I stick to my responsibilities," said Kottkamp, who serves as chairman of Space Florida and oversees the Governor's Office of Adoption and Child Protection and Governor's Office of Drug Control. "I stick to them and make sure I keep doing my job."
Kottkamp made the remarks to reporters during a stop in St. Petersburg, where he and other Republicans running for attorney general — former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson, Hillsborough prosecutor Pam Bondi and former statewide prosecutor Jim Lewis — addressed the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.
The race has the potential to be one of the more unpredictable campaigns in Florida in 2010, partly because of the number of credible candidates, and partly because the race figures to draw little statewide attention.
Democrats will choose between two exiting state legislators: Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber.
On Thursday, Kottkamp, Bondi and Benson each tried to offer themselves as a true conservative — Bondi as the outsider running against the scandals that have rocked the state Republican Party, Benson as a wonkish former agency head with an array of experience, and Kottkamp as a the son of a dump truck driver who learned early lessons about the power of people over government.
All three said they support a bill passed by the Legislature that would require women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound performed. The women would be required to pay for the procedure.
And they all said they would continue current Attorney General Bill McCollum's lawsuit to declare the federal health care overhaul unconstitutional.
Lewis, a lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, said he would support the lawsuit, but not the abortion bill.
Bondi was the only candidate who wouldn't say whether or not the state should allow gay adoptions. The state's current attorney general, Bill McCollum, is appealing a 2008 court ruling that declared a state ban on gay adoptions unconstitutional.
Benson and Kottkamp said they agreed with McCollum's challenge, Lewis said he did not.
Bondi said "our judiciary will make a fair and just decision regarding that case," and suggested she would support either outcome.
Bondi had difficulty answering a question about whether or not she voted for Amendment 1, the tax-relief package offered by Republicans and Crist in 2008. After asking what Amendment 1 was, she quickly turned the discussion to property insurance.
Part of her trouble likely stemmed from the fact that she didn't vote in that election, Hillsborough County voting records show. That election — on Jan. 29, 2008 — also included the Republican presidential primary.
According to records, Bondi has voted in every presidential general election she has been eligible for, but she did not vote in the governor and Cabinet elections of 1986 and 1990.
Aaron Sharockman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.