Aramis Ayala, the state's first elected African-American state attorney who unsuccessfully sued Gov. Rick Scott last year over her stance to not seek the death penalty, endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor at a campaign stop in Orlando Tuesday afternoon.
Though the Orlando-based prosecutor's stance at the time conflicted with Gillum's — he has said he is not opposed to the death penalty but would use it sparingly — she praised his progressive record in Tallahassee and said she planned to campaign with him ahead of the Aug. 28 primary.
"He's shown true courage in this race — from speaking truth to power, to standing up for our most important values of inclusion and decency," said Ayala in a statement.
Ayala made headlines just months after she took office last year when she said she would not seek the death penalty in any case — including that of Markeith Loyd, who had been accused of murdering an Orlando police officer and his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Though she did not explicitly campaign against the death penalty, Ayala, a Democrat, asserted it was within her prosecutorial discretion to decide how to pursue punishment for cases in her purview.
Scott disagreed and signed an executive order later that day, taking her off the Loyd case and assigning it to Brad King, state attorney for Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. Ayala sued King and Scott — who ultimately reassigned away more than two dozen additional cases — in a dispute that reached the state Supreme Court.
But the court in August ruled for Scott, saying he had the constitutional authority to reassign cases from Ayala. Ayala then said she would convene a group of assistant state attorneys that would evaluate future murder cases and determine where the death penalty was appropriate.
Gillum, who is vying for the Democratic nomination against Winter Park businessman Chris King, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep Gwen Graham and Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene, touted Ayala's record on criminal justice, though he acknowledged he still believes the death penalty should be used sparingly.
"She's not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and I can't wait to continue campaigning with her throughout the summer and fall," Gillum said in a statement.