NAPLES — Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp has a sense of humor about his position.
He told Ave Maria law students gathered to hear him speak Thursday about meeting comedian Dave Barry, and introducing himself to Barry as Florida’s Lieutenant Governor.
“We have a lieutenant governor?” responded Barry, and proceeded to introduce himself to strangers as the lieutenant governor of Indiana, demonstrating not many people would know the difference.
Kottkamp, who is running for the Republican nomination for Florida Attorney General, a position with perhaps more defined duties, spoke to about 90 law students at Southwest Florida’s only law school. He gave his talk in the St. Thomas More Commons Building on the Ave Maria School of Law campus, inside the Vineyards development in North Naples.
First year law student Scott Hertz, who is also president of a construction industry association in Cape Coral, knows Kottkamp and invited him to speak to the students.
Kottkamp briefly touched on his own life story, as the son of a father who still drives a dump truck and the first in his family to attend college. The longtime Fort Myers resident, veteran of the Morgan & Morgan law firm, and Henderson, Franklin before that, told the students he was “excited to come back home.”
Kottkamp also noted, “It’s been a while since I was in a law school classroom,” but his courtroom and legislative experience stood him in good stead, as he expounded easily and voluminously on each topic the students raised.
Kottkamp mostly talked about issues that will face the students as they begin careers in law.
“Know every piece of paper in the file,” he advised, saying hard work would lead to success. “Nothing matches hearing that knock on the door from the bailiff, when the jury has reached a verdict, and you don’t know what it is.”
He urged the students to find a mentor, and in time, to be a mentor.
Entering the legislature in 2000, said Kottkamp, put him squarely in the middle of a national and Constitutional controversy.
“My first vote in office was who got Florida’s electoral votes,” between Bush and Gore, he remembered. “It was like somebody opened a history book, and we stepped inside.”
Asked about the upcoming Republican primary election for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, Kottkamp declined to endorse anyone, including his boss, Governor Charlie Crist.
“I’m not dumb enough to get in the middle of that,” he said. He knows both candidates very well, he said, and besides, “I’ve got my own campaign to run.”
In response to a question about Haitian immigrants from first year law student Lucy Laffoon, daughter of a Belizean mother and an African-American father, Kottkamp said if he were Florida’s Attorney General, “I’d think hard about taking the Federal government to court for not securing our borders.”
A question from Steve Maguire, another first year student, elicited the statement from the Lt. Gov. that, “We’ve got a crisis about to happen in access to health care.”
Kottkamp, who has been criticized for his use of state aircraft, drove to the talk from Orlando, and said he has been racking up 3,000 road miles per week.