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Docket grows in Democratic race for attorney general

Fight to become Democratic nominee also playing out in courthouse

The Democratic race for attorney pits state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa and Ryan Torrens, a consumer-protection attorney also from Hillsborough County.
The Democratic race for attorney pits state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa and Ryan Torrens, a consumer-protection attorney also from Hillsborough County.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The fight to become the Democratic nominee for attorney general isn’t just happening at the ballot box --- it’s also playing out in the courthouse.

Candidate Ryan Torrens, a consumer attorney from Hillsborough County, filed a libel claim Tuesday as part of his response to a lawsuit in which Torrens’ primary opponent, Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa, seeks to boot him from the ballot.

The two are slated to appear next Wednesday in Leon County circuit court on Shaw’s allegation that Torrens should be decertified as a candidate for accepting a $4,000 contribution in June --- $1,000 more than the maximum an individual is allowed to give --- that enabled Torrens to cover a $7,738.32 qualifying fee for the race.

In disputing Shaw’s claim, Torrens contends that the lawsuit challenges his integrity and that of his wife, Francesca Yabraian, whose name was on the disputed campaign donation.

“In his initial haste to file his frivolous lawsuit, my opponent apparently didn’t realize at the time that Francesca is my wife,” Torrens said in a statement. “And he certainly didn’t take the time to learn that the check his lawsuit focused upon was drawn on an account that is maintained in both our names.”

The money was initially listed as a loan and later recharacterized as a $1,000 contribution with a refund attached to Yabraian.

As part of his statement accompanying a copy of the counterclaim, Torrens said he’s been named a “Rising Star” in consumer law according to Super Lawyers magazine and that Shaw’s allegations “could irreparably harm” Torrens’ practice and good name.

Shaw has equated the lawsuit with his goal, if elected, of being one of the “most active attorney generals in this country.”

“If I don’t hold my primary opponent accountable, what does it mean when I’m telling people that I’m going to hold the Legislature accountable?” Shaw said while in Tallahassee last week.