Democratic state Sen. Dave Aronberg jumped into the race for attorney general Thursday, setting the stage for a competitive primary Democratic leaders had hoped to avoid.
"Corporations have their attorneys, and criminals have their attorneys. I will be the people's attorney," said the 38-year-old Palm Beach County Democrat. "And as your attorney general, I have one message for those who seek to commit crimes or fraud against our citizens: If you target Floridians, the state will target you."
While Aronberg had been looking at the race for months, his announcement surprised some leading Democrats who had hoped to avoid an expensive primary between Aronberg and two others eyeing the seat: former gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith, and state Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.
"We all had been talking and all had agreed to wait a little bit to give everybody a chance to come to a thoughtful judgment, but unfortunately we're not going to be able to do that," said Gelber, 48, a former federal prosecutor, who is also expected to enter the race soon. "We seem to have an irresistible impulse for self-immolation."
Smith, 59, echoed the sentiment that Democrats would be better off avoiding a primary, but said he's still seriously looking at running.
"I like Dave Aronberg. He's a friend. But we may be candidates against one another. That's just politics," said Smith, a former state prosecutor and state senator.
A Harvard University and Harvard Law School graduate who worked about three years as an assistant attorney general for economic crimes, Aronberg was elected to the Florida Senate in 2002. He concentrated on consumer protection and public safety issues in the Legislature, representing a sprawling district stretching from West Palm Beach to Fort Myers.
Republicans do not yet have a major candidate for the office that Bill McCollum will leave to run for governor. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp is expected to enter the race, while state Rep. Bill Galvano and Orlando lawyer and former U.S. Senate candidate Will McBride also is looking at it.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com.