Hillsborough’s Pam Bondi running for attorney general

December 2nd, 2009 by

TBO.com – Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi of Tampa has made it official – she’s running for Florida attorney general.

Bondi told the Tampa Tribune this morning she will enter the Republican primary, which already has two prominent GOP candidates – Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former state legislator and health care administrator Holly Benson.

Also in the race is Jim Lewis, a Broward County prosecutor who has run for several public offices repeatedly and unsuccessfully.

Bondi said she’ll be the outsider in the race.

“I feel I bring a fresh perspective,” she said. “I’ve spent my entire career prosecuting, not politicking. … I look at everything going wrong in our state today and I realize it’s time for someone who’s not a politician to take a stand.”

Bondi said her career of 19 years in the state attorney’s office will enable her to “hit the ground running.”

Asked how the operation of the office needs to change, she said she expects to continue the priorities of current Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is running for governor, crediting him with combating consumer fraud and identity theft.

“I would want to carry on where General McCollum leaves off,” she said.

Bondi also said she wanted to focus on “additional issues that I care passionately about,” including bullying and cybercrimes in schools.

The race will be a political challenge for Bondi.

Bondi, who resigned her job effective Monday to enter the race, has never sought elective office before and hasn’t been heavily involved in Republican Party politics, which means she hasn’t established a base of support among the GOP voters who will decide the primary.

That won’t make it easy to start her electoral career with a run for a statewide office in the nation’s fourth-largest state.

It doesn’t appear impossible, however. Benson and Kottkamp both have political experience, but neither is a household name.

Benson has held two high-level appointive jobs in state government – director of the state Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation – but has never run for office outside the Pensacola-based district of her former state House seat.

Kottkamp, from Fort Myers, has served in the state House as well as running statewide as Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2006, but has not played a high-profile role as lieutenant governor.

In a poll of likely Republican primary voters last summer, before Benson and Bondi announced, he only narrowly beat Lewis, with nearly 80 percent of the respondents undecided. Brett Doster, a Tallahassee-based GOP political strategist who’s working with Bondi, said he considers the race “wide open.”

Bondi may have some top-tier political talent on her campaign.

Doster held high-level positions in both of George Bush’s presidential campaigns in Florida and managed Tom Gallagher’s 2006 governor’s campaign. Media consultant Adam Goodman of Tampa, who designs advertising for Republican candidates nationwide, has also been working with Bondi.

But her biggest challenge will be raising money to pay for a campaign in a state where saturation political campaign advertising costs more than $1 million a week.

Bondi said she expects the race to cost up to $4 million; the primary alone is likely to cost $1.5 million to $2.5 million, said Rocky Pennington, a consultant working with Kottkamp.

Kottkamp had reported raising $175,900 as of the end of September for his campaign; Benson has not yet filed a financial report.

Bondi has support from some prominent Tampa Bay area GOP fundraisers, including lawyer Steve Burton. But for a statewide race, she’ll need a statewide fundraising network.

Bondi said she’ll announce a finance committee in a few days, but didn’t want to name top fundraisers Monday.

The winner of the republican primary is likely to face one of the two top Democratic contenders, State Sens. Dan Gelber, of Miami Beach, and Dave Aronberg, of Greenacres.

Bondi, 44, a lifelong Tampa resident and fourth-generation Floridian, has been assistant state attorney for 18 years in the 13th Judicial District State Attorney’s Office, which serves Hillsborough County.

She is currently public information officer for the office, but said she also works as a prosecutor handling death penalty cases.

She has become best known as a legal analyst on national television news shows, which has boosted her profile.

Bondi also got national publicity in 2007, when she adopted a St. Bernard dog from New Orleans who she thought had been abandoned during Hurricane Katrina. The dog had ended up in Pinellas County animal shelter, malnourished, sickly and parasite-ridden.

After she nursed the dog back to health, she ended up in a legal battle with the dog’s original owners, who wanted him back.

Worried that the dog hadn’t received proper medical care before the Hurricane, she initially fought to keep the dog, but then reached a settlement agreement under which she paid for his food and veterinary care, and has visitation rights.

Bondi has been married and divorced twice and has no children. For three years, she has been in a committed relationship with Tampa physician Gregory Henderson and said she is very close to Henderson and his four children.


One Response

  1. Chris Tucker

    I was recently at Brandon Florida Attorney Cliff Curry’s Brandon Chamber Of Commerce Christmas Party recently.
    Attorney Cliff Curry announced that Pam Bondi is running for Florida Attorney General!
    I was in the middle of the crowd at this Brandon Chamber Of Commerce event when the announcement was made.
    The applause for Pam Bondi was overwhelming!
    She obviously has the support of the people of Brandon, Florida !
    And MY support as well!
    As a person who has battled drug addiction in the past, I know how important it is for an addict to “hit bottom”.
    Recovery from drug addiction is not possible until the consequences of using exceed the “pleasures” of drug addiction!
    I will always remember Pam Bondi as the hard nosed Hillsborough County Assistant States Attorney who FINALLY “stood up” to Dwight Gooden, and allowed him his chance to finally “hit his bottom”
    It is called “Tough Love”
    I am SURE Pam Bondi was under a lot of “pressure” to give him a mere “slap on the wrist”
    Because Pam Bondi did not “cave in” to this pressure, it is my belief we can trust her to look out for the interests of the People of the State Of Florida!

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