Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida attorney general candidates match wits in TV debate

Holly Benson, left, Jeff Kottkamp and Pam Bondi are on the Republican primary ballot to become the state attorney general.

Bay News 9

Holly Benson, left, Jeff Kottkamp and Pam Bondi are on the Republican primary ballot to become the state attorney general.

TALLAHASSEE — In their first joint TV appearance Saturday, all three Republican candidates for attorney general matched wits and contrasted their qualifications to be the state's next chief legal officer.

The three GOP hopefuls hit their strong points, but former Hillsborough prosecutor Pam Bondi seemed more confident than Holly Benson or Jeff Kottkamp. With her terse answers, Bondi excelled in a sound bite-driven format in which candidates were limited to answers of one minute or less.

Bondi also deftly used the chance to question her opponents, calling both "key members of the Crist-Kottkamp administration."

Benson served as a two-time agency head appointee under Gov. Charlie Crist, but when she described her experience, she said: "I worked with Gov. Jeb Bush."

Kottkamp is the lieutenant governor under Crist, an unpopular figure in Republican circles after he bolted from the party three months ago and drifted leftward to appeal to independents and Democrats as a U.S. Senate candidate.

Kottkamp said he and Crist have not spoken since April 29, the day Crist became an independent Senate candidate.

"I've never been a politician," Bondi said, seeking to tap the same anti-incumbent sentiment that Rick Scott has exploited in the governor's race. "I've not spent my career behind a desk in Tallahassee, but on the front lines."

All three candidates said they opposed Crist's proposed referendum to permanently ban oil drilling in Florida's Constitution.

All three also repeatedly used the word "Obamacare" in promising to carry on with Attorney General Bill McCollum's lawsuit seeking to block the new federal health care mandates.

"Draw a line in the sand and say, 'Enough is enough,' " Kottkamp said.

One of the rare areas of disagreement concerned immigration. Benson, a former state House member from Pensacola, emphasized her support for less regulation of business and said she supports deportation of all undocumented immigrants in Florida.

"The illegal ones need to be shipped back," Benson said.

Neither Bondi nor Kottkamp agreed. Both said that was too inflexible and unrealistic in a state where illegal immigrants are viewed as indispensable to two pillars of the Florida economy: tourism and agriculture.

Kottkamp said that if elected, he would sue the federal government to recover the costs of providing health care and prison beds to illegal immigrants.

Bondi may be a first-time candidate, but she showed the dexterity of a career politician. Like her rivals, she finessed her way around a question about whether she supported Senate Bill 6, the teacher merit pay bill Crist vetoed this spring following intense statewide opposition. Bondi cited family members who work in public education and called herself an education advocate.

Kottkamp audibly gulped and caught his breath several times. He also faced questions over his ties to trial lawyers. He worked briefly for a leading personal injury firm, Morgan & Morgan, whose members have donated about $25,000 to his campaign. "I've defended hundreds of people and small businesses against personal injury lawsuits," Kottkamp said.

Late in the debate, Kottkamp and Bondi clashed over the Kottkamp campaign's leaking of an e-mail by Bondi's ex-boyfriend, Tampa lawyer Billy Howard, a member of the Morgan & Morgan firm. In the e-mail, Howard suggested that Bondi would steer legal work to the firm if elected, but both Howard and Bondi now say such a conversation never occurred.

"She dated someone from that firm for five years and lived with him," Kottkamp said of Bondi. "She's the one that started attacking first," over Kottkamp's ties to Morgan & Morgan.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Bondi said. "This is gutter politics at its finest. … I dated someone well before he worked for Morgan & Morgan."

>>On TV

Watch tonight

Saturday's "Florida Decides" forum was co-sponsored by Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13 and taped
in Orlando. It will air at
8 tonight on Bay News 9, moderated by Bay News 9's Al Ruechel and CFN's Scott Harris.

Florida attorney general candidates match wits in TV debate 08/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 4:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Today is not a dream;' St. Petersburg ready to start building new pier

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG —Three years ago, with the now demolished inverted pyramid still standing stubbornly in the background, Mayor Rick Kriseman laid out a plan to replace or renovate the iconic structure.

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman addresses the crowd Wednesday morning at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new pier. Construction will start next week. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
  2. Hillsborough and Pinellas officials can't even agree that they agreed to meet

    Local Government

    Tampa Bay political leaders often tout taking a regional approach to solve the region's most pressing issues. But the challenge has been getting Hillsborough and Pinellas County leaders together on the same page.

    Or in this case, in the same room.

    This month Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill (above) nixed a joint meeting of the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Commissions. But Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long said her Hillsborough counterpart, Stacy White, had already agreed to two meetings. [DANIEL WALLACE   |   Times]
  3. Ex-sheriff's official says sheriff intentionally hid federal inmate revenue from county

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The former third-in-command at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office has filed a complaint, alleging that Sheriff Al Nienhuis intentionally hid from the County Commission $1.3 million in revenue he collected from housing federal inmates last year.

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times  Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said he was "extremely disappointed'' to hear of James Terry's allegations about the sheriff's handling of federal inmate dollars and noted that Terry was "offered the opportunity to resign from his position at the Sheriff's Office when numerous complaints as to his unprofessional conduct began flowing into the front office.''
  4. Fewer minions make things better in 'Despicable Me 3'

    Movies

    Despicable Me 3 doubles down on Steve Carell's silly way with words, a smart idea after too much Minions gibberish spoiled part 2. They're still here, in smaller doses and somewhat funnier for it.

     voiced by Trey Parker, in a scene from "Despicable Me 3."  (Illumination and Universal Pictures via AP)
  5. After Rick Scott veto, Tarpon Springs renews push for money to dredge Anclote River

    Local Government

    In a pocket formed at the end of a branch of the Anclote River, Kevin Meisman has seen the size of the boats coming by his family's business get smaller.

    Kevin Meisman, 37, looks out from the dock of his family’s business, Quality T-Tops & Boat Accessories, in Tarpon Springs. Meisman says that, without dredging along the Anclote River, the number of boats he can service is limited.