Florida Primary Roundup - Scott/Bondi upset McCollum/Kottkamp, Gelber sweeps Aronberg

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August 25, 2010

By Joseph Kastner

On Tuesday, August 24, 2010, the voters of Florida went to the polls to select candidates from both major parties in the hotly contested attorney general and gubernatorial contests.

In the early days of the state gubernatorial campaign, it had been assumed that the nomination of Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum was all but a foregone conclusion as polling data showed he held a comfortable lead over his six primary opponents.[1] The entry of Rick Scott, former CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, and his spending of $23 million worth of his own personal fortune throughout the course of the campaign dramatically altered the race in ways no one, especially McCollum, had ever anticipated. Accusations of frivolous spending on the dime of the taxpayer, specifically over the use of a state-owned plane, in addition to charges of corruption on the part of the Florida Republican Party certainly did not benefit McCollum's campaign in any way either.[2]

Following an intense and bitter primary campaign, Scott upset McCollum 46.4 to 43.5 percent. Though the state attorney general did ultimately concede to Scott, he offered few, if any, kind parting words, let alone an endorsement of his campaign in the general election.[3]

2010 Race for Governor - Republican Primary[4]
Candidates Percentage
Rick Scott (R) 46.4%
Bill McCollum (R) 43.5%
Mike McAllister (R) 10.1%
Total votes 1,281,650

On the Democratic side of the attorney general race, two state senators, Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg, intensely campaigned for the party nomination. British Petroleum (BP) and the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, though a topic of great concern in both major party primary contests, was particularly relevant in the Democratic race after Aronberg's campaign made it a prominent issue that Akerman Senterfitt, the five hundred lawyer private practice based in Miami with whom State Senator Gelber had served as both partner and counsel for years, agreed to represent BP against disaster claims.[5] In spite of the fact that Gelber tenured his resignation at Akerman Senterfitt shortly after discovering the connection, Aronberg continued to make the matter an issue in the primary campaign. An email sent to his supporters has Aronberg remarking that he is "not angry" at his opponent, but that "the fact remains, however, that his employment by BP’s law firm could disqualify him from representing Florida against BP as Attorney General."[6]

The issue never seemed to have had the impact Aronberg intended as two out of three polls conducted in the lead up to the state primary election showed Gelber with a sizable advantage over his opponent. Despite a considerable smaller Democratic turnout in the state, Gelber easily secured the party nomination with slightly over fifty-nine percent of the vote.[7]

2010 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary[8]
Candidates Percentage
Green check mark.jpg Dan Gelber (D) 59.1%
Dave Aronberg (D) 40.9%
Total votes 823,373

The Republican contest for state attorney general was just as intense, if not more so. Much of the attention was focused on the conflict between Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp and Pam Bondi, an Assistant State Attorney in the Thirteenth Judicial District. The only other candidate, Holly Benson, former Secretary of the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, failed to distinguish herself in the race, in spite of receiving the endorsement of Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House.[9] Bondi, who, for most of her adult life, had been a registered Democrat until recently, was attacked by Kottkamp's campaign as not being truly conservative. This theme was particularly prevalent when, after appearance on a weekend call-in radio program for WDBO in Orlando, Bondi drew criticism for stating that "she was opposed to the secret ballot in votes on unionization."[10] In response to the controversy, the young prosecutor contended that "it was difficult to hear the question, and I confused the terms in discussing my opposition to card check."[11]

Meanwhile, Kottkamp, like McCollum, was dealing with accusations of frivolous spending of taxpayer money, in addition to improper use of state party funds. Although there is no indication that Kottkamp broke any state ethical laws, email messages released to the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald (following a public records request) do suggest, however, that he frequently timed official state governmental trips to coincide with personal vacations with his family. The Miami Herald also reported in early-May 2010 that during the summer of 1998 Lieutenant Governor Kottkamp spent close to $10,000 on special tours of the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando and charged the expenses to an American Express card held by the State Republican Party.[12] Though a spokesman for Kottkamp claims these were "donator appreciation outings," the state party, however, argued that these "Disney charges were not associated with a fundraiser nor other official party business."[13]

High-profile political endorsements may have played an impact during the course of the campaign, especially in the last few weeks prior to the primary election. Fairly late in the race, the lieutenant governor announced that he was endorsing Marco Rubio, not his boss and former running mate, Charlie Crist, in the race for the United States Senate.[14] Benson, on the other hand, endorsed Bill McCollum for Governor in the waning days of the race.[15] And while Bondi did not chose to endorse anyone in either one of the more high-profile campaigns, she did, however, receive the support of Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska and former vice presidential candidate.[16][17] This arguably may have helped her among conservative voters undecided who to vote for in the last week of the campaign.

2010 Race for Attorney General - Republican Primary[18]
Candidates Percentage
Green check mark.jpg Pam Bondi (R) 37.9%
Jeff Kottkamp (R) 32.9%
Holly Benson (R) 29.3%
Total votes 1,200,828

See also

Ballotpedia News

References

  1. Orlando Sentinel "New poll: Crist is cruising; McCollum not so much" 5 June, 2009
  2. Miami Herald "State planes used less in '09" 17 Nov. 2009
  3. Miami Herald "Bill McCollum concedes GOP governor's race but doesn't endorse Rick Scott" 25 Aug. 2010
  4. Florida Department of State - 2010 Republican Gubernatorial Primary Election Results
  5. The Reid Report "Mo’ clicks: me llamo Freddy Kreuger, the vanishing Mr. Rubio, Gelber’s BP problem **UPDATED**" 28 June, 2010
  6. Saint Petersblog 2.0 "It’s just business, nothing personal: Aronberg fires again at Gelber over connection to BP, but says “he’s not angry”" 2 July, 2010
  7. The Miami Herald "Dan Gelber wins, Pam Bondi holds lead in Florida attorney general races" 25 Aug. 2010
  8. Florida Department of State - 2010 Democratic Attorney General Primary Election Results
  9. Sunshine State News "Newt Gingrich Backs Holly Benson in Republican AG Primary" 19 Aug. 2010
  10. Pam Bondi's remarks on WDBO in Orlando
  11. Sunshine State News "Jeff Kottkamp Team Attacks Pam Bondi for Breaking With Conservatives on Labor Issue" 16 Aug. 2010
  12. The Huffington Post "Jeff Kottkamp, Florida Lt. Gov., Billed State GOP For Disney World Tours" 5 May, 2010
  13. The Miami Herald "Lieutenant governor tied to GOP-paid expenses for Disney tours" 5 May, 2010
  14. Sunshine State News "Jeff Kottkamp Crosses the Boss: Supports Marco Rubio, Drops Charlie Crist" 5 Aug. 2010
  15. Sunshine State News "AG Candidate Holly Benson Backs Bill McCollum for Governor" 17 Aug. 2010
  16. Orlando Sentinel "Sarah Palin endorses Pam Bondi as ‘bold, sharp, selfless…’" 18 Aug. 2010
  17. St. Petersburg Times "Sarah Palin endorses Pam Bondi for attorney general" 19 Aug. 2010
  18. Florida Department of State - 2010 Republican Attorney General Primary Election Results