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Daniel Ruth

Pam Bondi's shifty response to her right turn

Think of this as Pam Bondi's "I can see Russia from my back porch!" moment.

When asked why she became a Republican in 2000, after years spent as a registered Democrat, the explanation by the Republican candidate for attorney general was simply one of expediency. Besides, just look at all the Republican bumper stickers she had on her car.

"I can't remember going down there (the Supervisor of Elections Office) to switch parties," Bondi said the other day.

Now there's a Heritage Foundation endorsement for you.

Democrats dominated local politics in the 1980s and 1990s, so it only made sense for Bondi to align herself with the party of FDR and JFK and Sandy Freedman. "You couldn't vote in a race if you weren't a Democrat," the candidate told the St. Petersburg Times' Steve Bousquet.

But Bondi didn't always vote, blowing off opportunities to vote in the 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1992 Democratic primary elections even though her office as an assistant Hillsborough state attorney was steps away from the elections office. It wasn't as if the supervisor's location was a big secret.

And we do have absentee voting. It's all the rage.

After her born-again Republican switch, Bondi proved to be just as indifferent about Republican primaries, sitting them out in 2002 and 2008. Well, there is something to be said for consistency.

You might say Bondi had a literal deathbed conversion to the Republican Party. She switched her party allegiance a week after her then boss, Democratic Hillsborough State Attorney Harry Lee Coe, committed suicide. Republican Mark Ober won the top law enforcement post, and Bondi was ensured of continued employment.

Perhaps right about now, some of you are thinking: "Hey, wait a minute! Shouldn't the state attorney's office be apolitical, free of cronyism and patronage?"

Aren't you precious?

Often when politicians flee to another party, they have relatively sound reasons. Perhaps the party drifted too far right or too far left. Perhaps ideology plays a role. But for Bondi, she can't quite recall exactly why she jumped from one ship to another.

She just did, okay? Then again it might be a tad unseemly to admit that "my boss had just offed himself and I needed a paycheck."

To shore up her GOP bona fides, Bondi noted how much she loved Ronald Reagan and even had a Jeb Bush bumper sticker on her car. Well, you have to admit it sure beats having to read all these page-turning American Enterprise Institute dissertations on "The Effect of Labor Market Regulations on Educational Attainment." What fun!

Why bother with Republican orthodoxy when a giant "!" on your bumper accomplishes the same shorthand?

Bondi has insisted that although her earlier pristine voter registration card may have denoted Democratic Party affiliation, she could only recall voting for the rare Democrat like former Mayor Dick Greco.

Really now, Greco, who shows up at more GOP events than Sarah Palin, is about as much of a Democrat as Karl Rove. This was not as if Bondi was pledging her electoral fealty to Lawton Chiles before she went shopping for an exclamation mark manifesto to glue on to her car.

It is no great sin to have a change of political heart, to abandon one party for another. Times change. We grow older. Perspectives evolve. And when we do transfer political loyalties, we have a pretty good reason why.

But in political life, it would be refreshing if Bondi did not come off as so disingenuous. She cannot remember why she shifted? A young woman working in a politics-filled work environment cannot quite recall exactly why she changed parties? This would be like someone converting from Catholicism to Judaism and still not being sure why.

If one held rock-ribbed, die-hard Republican values, wouldn't this be a no-brainer of a question?

The candidate is pretty sure she voted for Reagan and then George H.W. Bush. Pretty sure? But not absolutely positive? It is a reasonably good bet all of us can remember whom we voted for, especially in presidential elections.

I can, and I'm 16 years older than Bondi: 1972, McGovern; 1976, Ford; 1980, Carter; 1984, Reagan; 1988, Bush; 1992, Bush; 1996, Dole; 2000, Gore; 2004, Kerry; 2008, Obama. And I would venture to say, all of you can do the same.

Or put another way, my 87-year-old mother remembers voting for Thomas Dewey in 1948.

Forgive a pinch of cynicism, but it could be argued that Pam Bondi fell off her horse on the way to Camelot and experienced the epiphany that her political fortunes were vastly more improved with an elephant in her life.

The candidate has insisted, as all ambitious pols do, that until recently she had "zero political aspirations." Until, of course, a political opportunity presented itself to her.

Ah, the woman is a natural — in any party.

Pam Bondi's shifty response to her right turn 07/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 7:34pm]
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