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AG-elect Bondi taps bipartisan AG primary losers for transition team

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi enlisted two losing attorney general primary candidates to her transition team, which will be chaired by former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker,her predecessor Attorney General Bill McCollum and former House Speaker Larry Cretul.

Bondi tapped former state Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat who lost his AG bid in the primary to former state Sen. Dan Gelber who lost to Bondi, to serve on her pill mills and prescription drug team.

And Bondi recruited former state Rep. Holly Benson, her one-time opponent in the GOP primary, as one of her Medicaid fraud advisers. Benson formerly served as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The former Tampa prosecutor also asked her transition team members to sign an ethics pledge that includes a one-year ban on lobbying her office.

Bondi’s full list of transition team appointees follows.


UPDATE: Two GOP attorney general candidates’ websites attacked, Bondi’s untouched

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Hackers didn’t limit their targets to candidates last night. Online thugs also penetrated the conservative Florida Family Policy Council website’s firewall, according to director John Stemberger. Hackers got into the organization’s page where voter guides were located and replaced the council’s donor banners with “bizarre images,” Stemberger said.

GOP attorney general hopeful Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp’s campaign website was attacked by hackers who got into the candidate’s calendar and e-mail, his campaign spokesman David Bishop said.

Online culprits also attacked Holly Benson’s website yesterday but were unable to breach the site‘s security, her web master said.

“We had suspicious behavior with our online calendar and email. Appointments would be canceled. Someone even called to send regrets for an event we accepted earlier in the day,” Bishop said.

The two are in a race too close to call against opponent Pam Bondi, whose website apparently remains unscathed.

UPDATE: Benson attorney general website attacked

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Apologies to Sean Doughtie, Holly Benson’s web master, who corrected our use of the term “hacked” to describe an attack on the attorney general candidate’s website.

The site was not hacked, which means the culprits did not gain access to the server, Doughtie, owner of Taproot Creative, clarified.

What happened was in the geek world called a “brute force attack,” Doughtie explained, designed to either shut the website down or hack into it. Neither happened, Doughtie said.

“They basically just jammed up the server so the server slowed down a crawl,” he said.

The attack came from Tallahassee, a source close to Benson’s campaign said, and Doughtie’s busy trying to identify who was behind the dirty deed.

GOP attorney general candidate Holly Benson’s website crashed last night after being hacked, her campaign said.

The attack on the eve before today’s primary election did not result in any security breach, according to her website consultant.

“Yesterday, was the victim of a brute force attack where one or more individuals attempted to overload the server with the purpose of taking it offline. We quickly identified the issue, narrowed the source of the attack, and were able to restore access with little downtime. At no time was the security of the website breached, and no information was compromised. We are conducting an ongoing investigation with regard to the source and the intent of the attack on the website,” Sean Doughtie, Benson’s new media campaign consultant, said.

Last-minute Palin robo-calls for Bondi in GOP attorney general primary

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

bondi-palinThe day before Tuesday’s primary election, political newcomer Pam Bondi brought out the big guns: a robo-call recorded by conservative darling Sarah Palin.

The “Mama Grizzly” calls Bondi “a real prosecutor and a true conservative” who is “sharp, selfless and ready to stand for you” in the call released today.

Bondi was a Democrat for 16 years before switching to the GOP a decade ago.

Listen to Palin tout “my friend Pam Bondi.”

Maybe Bondi, who’s in a race too close to call against Holly Benson and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, can help Palin as well.

Palin’s endorsees, mainly tea party favorites or political outsider’s like Bondi, have not fared well in primaries throughout the country thus far.

Newt Gingrich backs Holly Benson for attorney general

Thursday, August 19th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed Holly Benson in a tight three-way GOP primary for attorney general today.

“The next Attorney General of Florida will have to take the lead on the lawsuit challenging Obamacare,” said Gingrich said in a press release issued by Benson’s campaign. “In my opinion, there is no one more qualified to do this than Holly Benson. So today, I am proud to endorse Holly’s candidacy for Florida Attorney General.”

Benson, a former state House member who also served as secretary of both the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Agency for Health Care Administration, received the endorsement of conservative biggie Gingrich the day after primary opponent Pam Bondi nailed down the support of Tea Party idol Sarah Palin.

“It is a true honor to have the former Speaker’s support of my campaign,” Benson said in a statement. “Newt has been at the cutting edge of conservative policies, leading not only a conservative banner but also leading our party to victory after decades of being the minority in Congress. He is a true conservative icon, and I am proud to have his endorsement.”

The GOP opponents are battling to prove their conservative stripes with their endorsements. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp has the support of Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, considered the matriarch of the modern conservative movement and conservative activist John Stemberger, head of the Florida Family Policy Council.

Palin endorses Bondi for attorney general

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Political newbie Pam Bondi scooped her GOP rivals for attorney general with an endorsement today from conservative icon Sarah Palin.

Palin, who was Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, backed Bondi along with a handful of other female GOP candidates throughout the country today.

“We desperately need these conservative leaders who won’t kowtow to the Obama administration’s big government overreach into our states, small businesses, families, and individual lives,” Palin wrote on her Facebook page about Bondi and Iowa attorney general candidate Brenna Findley.

Palin ‘s endorsement this late in the primary game could translate into some last-minute campaign cash for Bondi, a former prosecutor who’s kicking off a state-wide, four-day bus tour beginning tomorrow in Tallahassee.

The endorsement is a snub of Bondi’s opponent Holly Benson, a former Florida House member who also served under Gov. Charlie Crist as secretary of both the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Benson recently launched a television ad in which she calls both Bondi and the third GOP AG candidate Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp liberals.

Correction: Gelber gets Buddy McKay backing, Aronberg gets sheriffs

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 by Dara Kam

State Sen. Dan Gelber and attorney general candidate nailed down another big-name Democratic endorsement, this time from Buddy McKay, who served as lieutenant governor under the late Gov. Lawton Chiles and briefly served as governor after Chiles’ death.

Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat and former House member, is trying to trade up for the Cabinet post just a year after he won election to the Senate.

He and colleague Dave Aronberg, a Democratic senator from Greenacres, are in a battle-of-the-endorsements.

Post On Politics had erroneously reported that the sheriffs were split on the candidates.

They are not.

Aronberg has the support of 10 Democratic sheriffs, including Palm Beach County’s own law enforcement rock star Ric Bradshaw.

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, former state education commissioner Betty Castor and former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis have all thrown their support behind Gelber.

Republicans have lined up Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Holly Benson, a former House member who also served as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, in a GOP primary race that’s been virtually silent compared to the Aronberg/Gelber contest.

They’re all vying to replace Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican who is running for governor in a primary against another senator – Paula Dockery.

Gelber’s latest political aspiration has opened up the door for yet another former senator, Gwen Margolis, to return to the chamber.

Margolis, a former Senate President, left office before being termed out to make room for Gelber. If she wins, it would be the Miami Beach-area Democrat’s second return trip to the Senate. After serving in the state House, she switched to the Senate from 1981-1992 before making a losing bid for Congress. Margolis was reelected to the Senate in 2002.

Holly Benson leaving AHCA, expected to announce AG run next month

Thursday, October 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

secbensonAgency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson resigned from her post this morning, the day after meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist who appointed her to the post in Feb. 2008.

“I had a meeting with the Governor the other day to talk about some opportunities that lie ahead, and I regret that because of those opportunities I will no longer be able to serve as your Secretary,” Benson wrote in an e-mail to AHCA workers this morning.

Benson, a former state representative from the Panhandle, is expected to jump into the attorney general’s race next month, according to sources close to the Pensacola Republican. That could elevate interest in a GOP primary against Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who’s already announced his candidacy to replace Bill McCollum. Democratic state Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres and Dan Gelber of Miami Beach are already engaged in a heated battle for the state’s top law enforcement chief.

Crist tapped Benson, a bond lawyer, to head AHCA in 2008. Before that, she left her Pensacola House seat to head DBPR, again at Crist’s bidding.

In the House, Benson was the force behind a model Medicaid reform project that has had mixed results. (more…)

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