Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gov. Crist's rejection of GOP has complicated life for Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp

When Gov. Charlie Crist bolted from the Republican Party in April, he called it a "declaration of independence."

It was a savvy marketing ploy by a politician in deep trouble who needed to reinvent himself to have any hope of being elected to the U.S. Senate.

The day Crist did that, some Republican insiders now say, Jeff Kottkamp should have immediately declared his independence from Charlie Crist and resigned as lieutenant governor.

That's because Kottkamp is now a Republican candidate for attorney general, and he is coveting the very voters who despise Crist the most: conservative Republicans.

"Kottkamp is in trouble because he and Charlie Crist were a pair for 3 1/2 years," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who supports one of Kottkamp's rivals, Holly Benson.

Did Kottkamp ever think about quitting?

"Not for a second," he said. "I have a job to do."

He cited his duties overseeing the state Office of Drug Control, the board of directors of Space Florida and the Children's Cabinet, a largely advisory panel.

"I was not about to stop serving the citizens of Florida who elected me as well," he said.

But everybody knows the job of lieutenant governor is light-duty stuff, and cynics might note that by staying put, Kottkamp gets to keep the state-owned SUV and state trooper that keeps him visible traveling around the state.

Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist not working for any of the candidates, says Kottkamp blew a golden opportunity by not severing ties with Crist.

"He would have been a hero to the Republican right," Wilson said. "He would have been well-defined. He didn't make that choice. It is what it is."

Can Kottkamp overcome the Crist albatross and beat his two rivals, Benson and Pam Bondi? The result on Aug. 24 will tell us a lot of the depth of hostility toward the newly-nonpartisan governor on the political right.

Kottkamp knows this, but these days he speaks of how his alliance with Crist means nothing — even though his rivals would be wise to refer to him as "Charlie Crist's right-hand man."

"So what?" Kottkamp said. "I'm my own guy. I have my own track record."

Benson also has ties to Crist: She ran two state agencies for him. But she says voters will judge her on her record.

Many Republican voters aren't aware that Kottkamp is totally estranged from Crist. Their relationship fizzled long ago, and both men confirmed in interviews this week that they haven't spoken in months.

So much for the Crist-Kottkamp "team" that captured 52 percent of the vote in 2006.

Crist picked Kottkamp, a well-liked state House member from Cape Coral, to give him a reliable partner who, despite his affinity for the trial bar, had a generally conservative voting record.

But that was then. Now, Crist is a pariah in Republican circles. Activists jeered at the mere mention of his name two weeks ago at a Hillsborough County GOP dinner.

Perhaps Kottkamp should rethink his political situation and rebrand himself while he still has time.

It worked for Crist, didn't it?

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Gov. Crist's rejection of GOP has complicated life for Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp 07/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 4:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics


    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.