TALLAHASSEE — Sarah Palin endorsed former Hillsborough prosecutor Pam Bondi for attorney general Wednesday, and Bondi didn't even know it was coming.
Palin's surprise endorsement in the three-way Republican primary for attorney general surfaced on Facebook, and Bondi rushed to spread the word ahead of Tuesday's primary.
The former vice presidential candidate and ex-Alaska governor, who's expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, threw her support to other candidates, all women, in state and local contests in Alabama, Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina.
Palin called Bondi and an attorney general candidate in Iowa "bold, sharp, selfless women who will respect our Constitution, defend their states, protect our rights and push back against any overreach of the federal government."
Palin said the timing of the endorsements was meant to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
"I'm so very proud to be endorsed by such a strong Christian woman who loves her family and her country and is a true role model," Bondi said.
Bondi said she met Palin a few months ago at a breakfast in Washington hosted by the group Susan B. Anthony List, which supports women candidates who oppose abortion rights. Bondi said the two women discussed their experiences with Down syndrome, which affects Palin's son and Bondi's 6-year-old niece.
Bondi, a first-time candidate and Tampa native, is facing Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Holly Benson, a former state representative and head of two state agencies, in the Republican primary. The winner will face one of two Democratic state senators, Dave Aronberg or Dan Gelber, in November.
In a tight down-ballot race that has not attracted widespread attention, the GOP hopefuls for weeks have been seeking to out-do each other in endorsements. Kottkamp recently won the support of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, while Benson on Tuesday backed Bill McCollum for governor.
Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.