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Cape Coral's Jeff Kottkamp running for Lt. Gov.


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Crist names Kottkamp running mate


Lawmaker represents Lee, Charlotte



State lawmaker Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral, may be moving up -- to the governor's office.


Attorney General Charlie Crist, the Republican Party's nominee for governor, named Kottkamp as his running mate Wednesday.


Several local Republican leaders lauded the nomination. They described Kottkamp, a state representative for District 74 since 2000, as an attorney who specialized in judicial legislation, and as a "team player" who is well respected in the Florida Legislature.


The appointment came a day before Democratic opponent Jim Davis was to announce his pick ahead of the Nov. 7 general election.


"I want to be the people's governor, and Jeff Kottkamp will be a great partner in fighting for what matters most to Floridians," Crist said. "His outstanding leadership and experience in state government will be a great asset."


Kottkamp, whose district includes one precinct in southwestern Charlotte County, is chairman of the Judiciary Appropriations Committee. He also serves on the House Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights.


Other appointments include the claims, redistricting and judicial oversight committees.


"When Charlie called, he didn't just ask me to serve as his lieutenant governor," Kottkamp said. "He didn't just ask me to be his running mate. He instead challenged me with the opportunity to do more for the people of our state.


"I accept that challenge and I challenge each of you to join us in this fight for Florida's future that begins with electing Charlie Crist as Florida's next great Governor," he added.


State Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, said that if the Crist-Kottkamp ticket wins, it will be the first time since Albert Gilchrist of Punta Gorda served as governor in 1909-13 that a local resident rose to that level in state government.


"It's just wonderful for Southwest Florida -- because Jeff's been a wonderful legislator for Southwest Florida," Kreegel said.


Kreegel said Kottkamp helped him get the Darla Lathrem Act passed. The bill requires prison inmates who commit murder to be held pending trial in their prisons rather than county jails.


Kottkamp, 45, an Indiana native, moved to Florida as a teenager in 1977.


He earned an associate of arts degree from Edison Community College in 1982, a bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 1984, and a law degree from the University of Florida in 1987.


Kottkamp and his wife, Cyndie, have one child, Jackson, who turns 2 this month.


Charlotte County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Bill Cameron, a friend of Kottkamp's for some 30 years, recalled going through North Fort Myers High School and ECC with the politician.


"He was ahead of his time," Cameron said. "High school kids in the late '70s were interested in long hair, rock and roll music and partying. Jeff was into current affairs.


"He just had a love and passion for government service even in high school."


Crist made a "great choice," Cameron added.


"He was what we call a player," said county GOP State Committeeman Lindsay Harrington, a former House Speaker pro-tempore. "He was always working to make the good things happen. He would be a team player in working for Charlie, and he would work well with the House and Senate."


Kottkamp has name recognition in Southwest Florida. Getting his name known outside the area is something "they're probably going to have to work on," said Charlotte County Republican state committeewoman Jane Sturges.


The local GOP plans to do its part, she said.


"We're going all out," she said. "Our Republican headquarters is essentially staffed all the time now," she said. "We will be making phone calls, going door to door. And we are a having a big GOP picnic."


The event will be held Sept. 24 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Gilchrist Park.


Kottkamp first got to know Crist during the latter's unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1998. The relationship between the men grew stronger when Kottkamp sponsored a civil rights bill that was a priority for Crist as attorney general.


But they were on opposite sides in a couple of high-profile issues, including the phone rate increase vigorously opposed by Crist, and the fight last year over intervening in the Terri Schiavo case. Crist opposed intervention while Kottkamp favored it.


''Charlie and I probably aren't going to agree on everything, but my wife and I don't either,'' Kottkamp said. ''But you know what, I tell her she's right.''


Crist said he did not have a specific role in mind for Kottkamp other than as a boost to his campaign. Others Crist considered as possible running mates included state Sen. Lisa Carlton of Sarasota, state Rep. Jennifer Carroll of Jacksonville, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Chumuckla near Pensacola.


Bush used his two lieutenant governors in somewhat differing ways. Frank Brogan, who served in the first Bush term, helped push through the governor's educational priorities, while Toni Jennings, a former two-time Senate president, has served more to bridge differences with lawmakers.


Under the state constitution, the lieutenant governor's only responsibility is to become governor if the governor dies, becomes incapacitated or is impeached. Otherwise, the lieutenant governor serves in whatever role the governor directs.


Davis will announce his choice Thursday, most likely in Broward County, press aide Danae Jones said. Among those who have been considered are state Rep. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and former state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami.


The new governor will earn $132,932, and the new lieutenant governor, $127,399.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.





Staff Writer



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