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.
Holly Benson’s tapped conservative icon Newt Gingrich for a robo-call last-ditch pitch before Tuesday’s primary election.
Benson, a former state representative from Pensacola who’s served as secretary of both the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Agency for Health Care Administration under Gov. Charlie Crist, is in a tight three-way GOP primary for attorney general against Pam Bondi and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.
Pam Bondi nailed down about $50,000 at a last-minute fundraiser in Jacksonville this evening hosted by business biggies Steve Halverson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Ericka Alba, head of Associated Industries of Florida. Both business groups are backing Bondi in the primary.
Bondi, in a tight GOP primary for attorney general against Holly Benson and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, made her last in-person pitch for campaign funds before the midnight deadline tonight after which candidates are barred from collecting cash until after the primary election on Tuesday.
The event took place at Halverson’s posh home overlooking the St. John’s River, a far cry from the tiny store front in downtown Lake City where she shook hands with about a dozen locals eager to meet the political neophyte in person.
At both events on Bondi’s four-day sweep of the state before Tuesday, Bondi spoke about comments she made during a radio call-in program this weekend that fired up Kottkamp’s campaign.
“With the unions, I am totally against the secret ballot. We cannot have the secret ballot. Everything has to be public. The votes have to be public. We have to have transparency to make sure that everything is on the up and up. We have to protect our businesses in this economy more than ever,” she said on Tico Perez’ WDBO radio show this weekend.
What she said meant she supports the union-backed card check included in the Employee Free Choice Act that would allow unions to organize if 50 percent of workers check a card in public. Under existing law, workers can vote for or against unionization in federally supervised, private-ballot elections.
“By forcing workers to sign a card in public–instead of vote in private–Card Check opens the door to intimidation and coercion,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, says on its website.
Kottkamp’s camp immediately jumped on Bondi, who since said she misunderstood the question and repeatedly insisted she opposes the unions’ card check program.
Here Bondi talks about her FOXNews pals Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren and her endorsement from conservative darling Sarah Palin before clarifying her position on card check.
Halverson, who said Bondi collected about $50,000 in donations at his soiree, also backed up Bondi on where she stands on the issue that he said is ‘virtually a litmus test” for candidates.
“Obviously, card check is virtually a litmus test. I can absolutely assure you that what Pam said – that’s she’s been opposed to card check from the very beginning. If anybody heard that or heard comments from her desperate opponent to the contrary, rest assured that isn’t the case,” Halverson said.
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, 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.
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.
Agency 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…)
PALM BEACH GARDENS — The three leading candidates for Florida attorney general — Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Democratic state Sens. Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber — are here to speak to a Florida Sheriff’s Association lunch.
Also at the conference at the PGA Resort and Spa is Bob Butterworth, the Democrat who served four terms as attorney general from 1987 to 2003 and was sheriff of Broward County in the 1970s. Butterworth was Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s appointee to head the Department of Children and Families before stepping down last year and going into private law practice in Broward County.
Asked if he’ll take sides in the 2010 race for his old job, Butterworth said, “I’m not sure at this point in time. We have very good people running on both sides of the aisle.” He added that he’s not sure whether all the candidates for AG have entered the race — a reference, no doubt, to former Democratic state Sen. Rod Smith, who’s considering a run for the top legal post.
State Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, sidestepped a U.S. Senate primary over the weekend but may be headed into a three-Democrat battle for the party’s attorney general nomination.
Gelber, state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, and former Democratic state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua are all continuing to explore runs for the state’s top legal post in 2010. Incumbent AG Bill McCollum is running for governor.
The three potential Democratic candidates have talked extensively to each other over the last few weeks about avoiding a primary, but so far none has ruled out running.
“When we get into these primaries, it tends to become a circular firing squad,” Gelber said today.
Power lawyer George LeMieux, former chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist and former deputy attorney general when Crist was AG, notes in his latest online political newsletter that he’s a potential candidate for AG now that incumbent Bill McCollum is poised to run for governor.
LeMieux lists Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and state Rep. Tom Grady as potential Republican candidates, then notes: “Yours truly has also been mentioned as a contender, having served three years as Deputy Attorney General – the number two legal officer in the state.”
LeMieux’s prediction: “The AG’s race will be wide open.”