What’s at stake in tonight’s Florida attorney general debate between Moody and Shaw

The one-hour Sean Shaw-Ashley Moody debate will be broadcast live Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on Bay News 9 and Spectrum 13 News in Orlando.
Published Oct. 23, 2018

The most important overlooked race in Florida – one that could alter the state's relationship with President Donald Trump and affect the Trump agenda – will see its only televised debate tonight.

It's the attorney general's race, for an office sometimes considered the second most powerful elected post in Florida. With Republican incumbent Pam Bondi term-limited, Democrat Sean Shaw faces Republican Ashley Moody for the post.

Bondi has been an ardent backer of Trump, and Moody promises to follow to a large degree in her footsteps.

Shaw, on the other hand, has called Trump unfit for office, and likely would use his power to attack Trump and his agenda.

Throughout the nation, Democratic attorneys general have used their power to sue to try to alter that agenda, while Republicans, including Bondi, have sought to advance it and to attack Obama-era environmental and other policies.

Shaw has promised that if elected, he'll join a lawsuit by Democratic attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia seeking to uncover whether Trump has illegally received "foreign emoluments," payments from foreign powers banned in the Constitution, through his businesses. One of their goals is to force Trump to produce his tax returns.

Shaw has also said he will investigate whether Trump's Florida businesses, including the Trump International Beach Resort in Miami, have been involved in laundering money from wealthy Russians.

And Shaw would end Florida's involvement, led by Bondi, in a lawsuit by Republican attorneys general in Texas and some two dozen other states that seeks to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional.

Moody has said she would maintain Florida's involvement in that lawsuit.

Moody has said she backs Trump and his agenda, even though she and members of her family once joined a lawsuit against him alleging fraud. They sought return of deposits they paid for condos in the failed Trump Tower Tampa, and won a settlement.

Bondi has gone to court to defend state laws limiting abortion rights, and Moody has said she would defend any such law passed by the state Legislature in a court challenge.

Shaw has said attorneys general can serve as a "line of defense" against what he called illegal actions and policies of the administration on issues ranging from guns to immigration and reproductive rights.

Republicans currently hold 27 state attorneys general office, with 22 Democrats and one independent.

The one-hour Shaw-Moody debate will be broadcast live Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on Bay News 9 and Spectrum 13 News in Orlando, with two Spectrum anchors and Tampa's Mike Deeson of the First Amendment Foundation as moderators. It will be rebroadcast Saturday.