Gelber wins; slim lead for Bondi

Aug 24, 2010

KELLI KENNEDY

Sarasota Herald Tribune


Democratic State Sen. Dan Gelber won an easy victory, while Republican Pam Bondi, a former Tampa prosecutor, clung to a slim lead Tuesday in Florida's primary races for attorney general.

The three-way Republican primary has been a slow race with no clear front-runner even though Florida's next attorney general could be the most influential in years, taking a lead on Gulf oil damage claims and a pending lawsuit over the federal health care program.

Bondi was leading against Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former health secretary Holly Benson.

The Republicans have been aligned in supporting gun rights, tougher immigration laws and calls to repeal President Barack Obama's health care program.

Gelber, a veteran politician, soundly defeated Sen. Dave Aronberg. Both candidates said they are focused on rooting out public corruption and Medicare fraud.

Bondi, a 44-year-old former Tampa prosecutor and frequent commentator on Fox News, got a boost last week with an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The former vice presidential candidate called Bondi a bold leader able to "push back against any overreach of the federal government."

Bondi, who was registered as a Democrat for decades before switching parties, finished the campaign with a four-day bus tour.

Gelber, who was elected to the state Senate in 2008 after eight years in the House, served as chief counsel and staff director for the U.S. Senate's investigations committee, focusing mainly on terrorism and domestic security.

The Miami Beach resident said he will establish a public corruption task force and has personal experience from prosecuting corrupt public officials.

He called Florida ground zero for mortgage fraud, Ponzi schemes and identity theft and promised to create an investment fraud unit to crack down on white collar crime.

During the campaign, Aronberg criticized Gelber over his ties to Akerman Senterfitt, the law firm representing oil giant BP. Gelber resigned from the firm in June, but Aronberg said the relationship could still hurt Gelber's ability to seek claims against BP if he were elected.

Gelber's campaign said there is no conflict of interest.

Gelber was an assistant U.S. Attorney in South Florida and special counsel to former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and was the staff director for Nunn's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation.





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