Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is endorsing state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto in the GOP primary to replace former Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.), who resigned in January.

The Palin endorsement indicates conservative division in the race, as businessman Curt Clawson has picked up the endorsement of the Tea Party Express.

State Rep. Paige Kreegel is also running in the GOP primary for the seat, which became open when Radel resigned after admitting to cocaine use.


“Lizbeth Benacquisto is a proven conservative with an unwavering commitment to the principles of our Founders and to the sanctity of life,” Palin said in a statement posted on her Facebook page.

Palin knocked Clawson, though not by name, declaring that she and “good folks supporting other candidates … [will] have to disagree on this one.”

“Lizbeth is running against a wealthy self-funded candidate with lots of splashy campaign ads claiming to be a conservative. Since when do conservatives stand for crony capitalism and government bailouts?” she said.

Palin adds that, in the state Senate, Benacquisto has shown “a willingness to take on special interests and rein in” government, and has worked to help seniors. And she says, “in particular, Lizbeth’s personal triumph over hardship and staunch defense of life is inspiring.”

Benacquisto was the victim of a rape when younger, a detail that came to light during her 2010 state Senate race, after her Democratic opponent hit her in an ad for opposing abortion in cases of "rape, incest, even to save a woman's life.”

Benacquisto cut her own ad in response, disclosing her rape and accusing her Democratic opponent of “crossing a line.”