Bondi, Gelber heading for faceoff on who will be Florida's next attorney general

Aug 24, 2010

Paula McMahon

Sun-Sentinel


Republican Pam Bondi, dubbed the political newbie of the race, and
Democrat Dan Gelber, a veteran statesman of Florida politics, will vie
to become Florida's next attorney general after triumphing in Tuesday's
party primaries.

Gelber, a state senator from Miami Beach, easily
won the Democratic Party's nomination. His record as a leader in the
state legislature and as a former government prosecutor appeared to have
served him well with voters and put him far ahead of his opponent, Dave
Aronberg, of Greenacres, a former state assistant attorney general.

Bondi,
44, a former Hillsborough County prosecutor and frequent guest on Fox
News, beat out what some had thought would be Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp's
superior name recognition, causing him to concede the race around 10
p.m. Holly Benson trailed both of them.

If Bondi wins in November,
the Tampa resident would become the state's first female attorney
general. An endorsement last week from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin,
whose celebrity power guarantees headlines and online clicks, may have
helped put her ahead.

While Bondi is new to politics, she is not
new to the courtroom and the legal world. Voters appeared to warm to her
message, which portrayed her opponents as "career politicians" and
accentuated her 18 years of prosecuting criminals.

Bondi said
Tuesday night that voters will have two very different candidates to
choose between in November. "I'm very proud to be considered new to
politics, my opponent was a federal prosecutor but he has been in
Tallahassee politics for a long time now. He has made it clear that he
would like to be governor. I do not see this office as a stepping
stone,  I want to be the best attorney general I can be for eight
years."

Gelber, 49, has a long history in state politics and the
justice system. His resume includes nearly 10 years as a federal
prosecutor, and he has taken tough positions on issues such as public
corruption and campaign financing.

"I'm running for this office
because the Attorney General's Office — like so many in Tallahassee —
has forgotten its purpose. It's supposed to be the office that sets the
standard for justice and social justice in our state," Gelber said in a
statement released after his primary win was clinched. "Instead of
having the back of Floridians, it has become a prop for politicians
looking for a political boost. It has forgotten its mission of looking
out for everyday Floridians."

Democrats are hoping to wrest the
office from Republican control and many see it as their best hope of
wielding executive power in Tallahassee.

Both candidates have
proved they can raise money: Gelber netted the most of all five primary
candidates with $1.676 million and Bondi raised just under $1 million,
according to campaign finance reports filed Aug. 19.

Florida's
next attorney general, who will succeed Bill McCollum, the apparent
loser in Tuesday's Republican gubernatorial primary, will lead an office
handling some high-profile and emotive issues including claims for
damages from the BP oil spill in the Gulf and a lawsuit opposing federal
health care reform.

The primary races for both parties were
relatively quiet, overshadowed by the noisier and more dollar-infused
races for governor and U.S. Senate.

Now Tuesday's winners will
ramp up their efforts for the Nov. 2 general election. Gelber and Bondi
will also face a third lower-profile candidate, Fort Lauderdale defense
lawyer Jim Lewis, who is running with no party affiliation.

All
three Republican candidates for attorney general vowed to support
Arizona's immigration law, continue to oppose gay adoption and continue
the legal fight against federal health care reforms.

Bondi took
some heat from conservatives in her party who thought she was not vocal
enough on some issues. She also was criticized because she switched
parties, from being a Democrat, in 2000 and did not vote in the 2008
primary.

Democrats Gelber and Aronberg both emphasized that they
wanted to return the office's focus to fighting crime, protecting
consumers and rooting out public





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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Dan Gelber.