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Political mudslinging plentiful in Florida attorney general's race

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The race to replace Pam Bondi as Florida's attorney general has gotten feisty, if not personal, for candidates on both sides of the aisle.

The Democratic candidates filed lawsuits against one another, while the Republican candidates were in Jacksonville today defending themselves against attack ads.

Former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and state Rep. Frank White have each been trying to prove to voters how conservative they are, or how close they are to President Trump's policies.

"We're excited," Moody said. We're busy getting in front of people and letting people know that I'm the most qualified candidate in this race."

White too was looking forward to Aug. 28 -- primary day.

"Things are going great. This is the time when voters are paying attention. This is when they're really clued-in," White said.

White is finishing his first term as a state representative, but he says voters can look at his record and see that he deserves the vote.

Moody says her record is longer, more diverse and more relevant to the office of attorney general.

"So the AG has to handle legal opinions and appeals. Certainly, I'm the only one who's had that experience, and I'm the only one who has been a prosecutor and prosecuted cases," Moody said. "Guns, drugs, fraud cases. These are all issues that the AG will have to tackle on day one."

She continued, "I have an opponent who has never tried a case to verdict, never prosecuted a case and wants to make this race about things that are not true or misleading.

White said voters will choose him not just because of conservative values, but also his experience in business.

"They know that the office is best served by a proven conservative. That's me," White said. "(Voters will) also see my experience as a general counsel of a group of private businesses. Six hundred employees and three states. 

He continued, "The attorney general's office is a significant operation. I'm prepared day one to run it. I'm the only candidate to claim the ability to run something."

White and Moody both said they support Trump and his agenda, but the campaign has turned into a question of who is more supportive of the president.

"I have supported the president and my opponent, on the other hand, sued him for fraud," White said. "My opponent was a client suing President Trump personally for fraud."

When Moody was asked about the claim, she offered an explanation.

"My family had a small interest in a condominium project that failed, and we were one of dozens of litigants involved with multiple defendants. It had absolutely nothing to do with this race or partisan politics," Moody said.

She continued, "I think bringing something like that up when you're trying to have a basis to run on would make sense, but makes no sense to the voters of the state."

In most polls, there are still 30 to 40 percent of voters who are undecided in the attorney general's race.

Democratic candidates trade lawsuits

Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa, filed suit in July against his primary opponent for attorney general, Tampa lawyer Ryan Torrens. Shaw claims Torrens received an illegal campaign contribution and argues Torrens should be disqualified.

"We took that action because I'm going to hold everyone accountable, including my primary opponent, including anyone committing Medicaid fraud, including the people in this building," Shaw said.

Now Torrens is firing back -- suing Shaw for libel. In a statement this week, Torrens called Shaw's lawsuit "frivolous." He says the suit is "a sad attempt to confuse voters during a primary election after absentee ballots have already been sent out."

Torrens acknowledged that he received a $4,000 contribution. The maximum allowed by law is $3,000. 

But, Torrens says the money came from a joint account that he shares with his wife. Candidates have no limit when contributing their own cash to their campaign.

Mac Stipanovich, a GOP political consultant, says the suits are likely about drawing eyeballs rather than seeking justice.

"I believe that both lawsuits are mostly just for attention that they can't buy for lack of resources," Stipanovich said.

The suits are scheduled to be heard on Aug. 22, just six days before the primary election. A quick decision could give a last minute boost one way or the other

Shaw's campaign declined to comment on the countersuit, which may seem ironic considering their acrimony in court filings.

Both candidates have released statements highlighting the needs for Democrats to remain unified to ensure a blue victory in the 2018 general election.


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