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Florida attorney general, agriculture commissioner races set for November

Democrats face long odds as they try to defeat established Republican candidates.
The races are set for three powerful seats on the Florida Cabinet. Republican incumbents will try to retain their roles as attorney general and chief financial officer, while the state is destined to have a new agriculture commissioner.
The races are set for three powerful seats on the Florida Cabinet. Republican incumbents will try to retain their roles as attorney general and chief financial officer, while the state is destined to have a new agriculture commissioner. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Aug. 24|Updated Aug. 24

The general election lineup for Florida’s Cabinet races is set: In November, established, well-funded — and Donald Trump-endorsed — Republicans will be running against Democrats facing long odds.

On Tuesday, Aramis Ayala beat Daniel Uhlfelder and Jim Lewis in the Democratic primary for attorney general with nearly 45% of the vote.

Ayala, 47, became Florida’s first Black state attorney six years ago when she was elected to oversee prosecutions in Orange and Osceola counties. She surprised supporters when, just two months into office, she announced she would not pursue the death penalty against any defendants, sparking a legal fight with then-Gov. Rick Scott.

The winner of the Democratic primary will challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has raised millions more dollars. Moody has championed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda and signed on to a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

As the chief legal officer, Florida’s attorney general is responsible for defending the state in civil litigation, and for suing companies or organizations on Floridians’ behalf.

In the race to become Florida’s next agriculture commissioner, Naomi Blemur will face Wilton Simpson, the president of the Florida Senate. Blemur took just over 50% of the vote against fellow Democrats Ryan Morales and J.R. Gaillot.

The agriculture commissioner supervises a state department overseeing an array of activities and operations, including gas pumps, rollercoasters, school lunches, state fairs and concealed weapon licenses. Incumbent Nikki Fried, a Democrat, decided to run for governor this year instead of another term.

Blemur, 43, who owns a business consulting firm, received several endorsements from prominent Democrats, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. But some backers rescinded their endorsements after social media posts emerged of Blemur calling abortion a “sin” and defending anti-gay comments a few years ago.

Simpson, an industrial egg farmer, easily defeated James Shaw, 62, in the Republican primary, with about 65% of the vote. Simpson, 56, had a considerable advantage in fundraising and support over Shaw, and those advantages will continue against Blemur.

Along with the state’s elected chief financial officer, the agriculture commissioner and attorney general serve on the three-member Florida Cabinet. Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for chief financial officer were unopposed.

The Cabinet and the governor oversee the state’s clemency rules and various state agencies, including the state police, the highway patrol and the Department of Revenue.

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the elections in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription. Or click here to make a donation to the Tampa Bay Times Journalism Fund.

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