TALLAHASSEE — Democrats on Tuesday rounded out their 2010 statewide ticket by fielding a candidate for chief financial officer: Loranne Ausley, a Tallahassee lawyer and former legislator.
"This position is about government accountability, transparency and real people's lives," Ausley said in announcing her candidacy for the Cabinet post. "The buck stops with the CFO."
Ausley, 46, is the fifth woman seeking statewide office in Florida this year along with two candidates for governor — current CFO Alex Sink and state Sen. Paula Dockery — and two attorney general hopefuls — former Hillsborough prosecutor Pam Bondi and former state Medicaid director Holly Benson.
Ausley said her efforts as a lawmaker to bring more accountability and openness to state vendor contracts makes her a good fit for the position of CFO, which requires stewardship of how state dollars are spent. She's a member of the Children's Cabinet, which advises the governor on issues affecting kids, and chairs the board of the Florida Healthy Kids Corp., which runs the KidCare program that provides subsidized health insurance to children.
Republicans have fielded two candidates for CFO: Rep. Pat Patterson of DeLand and Senate President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, who had a strong fundraising quarter to conclude 2009. He collected $523,000, leaving him with $1.6 million cash on hand.
In declaring her candidacy, Ausley enlisted endorsements from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and Sink, who said Ausley needed a little persuading to make what will be a grueling run for statewide office.
"She's never run statewide before, and I think she just needed encouragement from a lot of people around the state and she got it," said Sink.
Atwater answered Ausley's candidacy by trotting out endorsements from four well-known Democrats. They included former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who lost to Atwater in a 2002 state Senate race, and three former House speakers: James Harold Thompson of Gretna, Hyatt Brown of Daytona Beach and Lee Moffitt of Tampa. Thompson and Moffitt are prominent lobbyists.
Butterworth says he intends his endorsement to be for the GOP primary. "It's a misunderstanding that could easily happen," Butterworth said. "I think Loranne is a good candidate for CFO."
Ausley served in the House from 2000 to 2008 and was forced out by term limits.
Times/Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas and Beth Reinhard contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.