Politics

Republicans Running for AG Start Debate Negotiations

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: June 25, 2010 4:05 AM
While the campaign teams of Republican gubernatorial candidates Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum negotiate a series of debates, the three GOP candidates in the attorney general race are doing the same thing -- with much less acrimony and political posturing.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi and former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson are locked in a close race for the Republican nomination. A poll taken in early May by Mason-Dixon revealed that the three candidates remain unknown to most Floridians. While Kottkamp pulled 13 percent in the poll, Bondi 10 percent and Benson 5 percent, 72 percent of the Floridians polled were undecided.

All of the candidates have produced solid fund-raising figures. At the end of the first quarter of 2010, Kottkamp raised more than $590,000 and almost $80,000 through in-kind donations; Benson brought in more than $401,000 and almost $75,000 through in-kind donations; and Bondi raised more than $421,500 with almost $16,000 through in-kind donations.

On Thursday, Bondi sent a letter to the other two candidates calling for a series of debates, while Kottkamp issued a statement calling for them.

“My team has already begun the process of identifying and speaking with public policy groups that would be effective for organizing these functions, including the James Madison Institute, Florida Taxwatch and the Federalist Society,” wrote Bondi. “All three have indicated an interest in hosting a formal discussion.”

“This year’s race for attorney general is too important to be decided by TV commercials and direct mail,” said Kottkamp. “The next attorney general will continue Florida’s lawsuit against the federal government’s national health care law, and handle legal issues resulting from the oil spill in the Gulf. Debates held in different regions of the state will allow voters to make a better-informed decision on who’s best qualified to be Florida’s attorney general. I call on my opponents in the race to accept this challenge and urge all three of our campaigns to begin negotiating dates and locations immediately.”

The Benson campaign fired a letter back to Bondi. “I welcome the opportunity and look forward to working with you to finalize the details for the formal debates,” wrote Benson.

Staffers from all three camps said they were willing to negotiate on the number of debates as well as the format and locations. The Kottkamp team stated that what mattered most to them was allowing as many Floridians to watch the debates as possible. The team also expressed that they wanted to get the debates on television, regional cable stations and webcasts.

Debates have already begun in some congressional, legislative and local races. On Tuesday, in the first debate for statewide office, the two leading candidates for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire investor Jeff Greene, waged an acrimonious debate.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunsinestatenews.com, or at (850) 727-0859.

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