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The best Democrat to take on Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody | Times recommends
Democrats have three choices. One stands out above the others.
Florida as seen from NASA's Goodard Space Flight Center
Florida as seen from NASA's Goodard Space Flight Center [ NASA | NASA ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Aug. 1|Updated Aug. 1

The attorney general is the chief legal officer for the state of Florida. The office represents the state in criminal appeals and civil litigation, operates consumer protection and victim services programs and prosecutes some criminal offenses. The office also aims to resolve disputes involving citizens seeking access to public records. The attorney general is a member of the Florida Cabinet, is elected to a four-year term and paid $139,988 annually.

Related: Read the Times recommendations in other races.

Democrats: Daniel Uhlfelder

Daniel Uhlfelder
Daniel Uhlfelder [ courtesy of Daniel Uhlfelder's campaign ]

Three seasoned lawyers are seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody in November. While all three offer a sharp contrast to Moody, Daniel Uhlfelder seems the best prepared and the Democrat most likely to draw bipartisan appeal.

Uhlfelder, 49, operates a general practice law firm in Santa Rosa Beach in the Florida Panhandle. He graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning a law degree from the University of Florida College of Law in 1996. Uhlfelder has served as a law clerk, summer associate and staff aide in the White House, the U.S. attorney general’s office and in Congress, and after graduating from law school, clerked for a federal district judge in Miami. His practice areas include civil and commercial litigation and criminal and family law.

Uhlfelder’s broad experience and familiarity with Florida’s political system make him the standout in this primary. He promises to be a strong advocate for civil rights and consumer affairs. Uhlfelder said he’s running because Floridians need a fierce defender and independent voice as attorney general. Uhlfelder promises to bring a sharp eye to utility rate-making cases, and work to protect abortion, voting rights and other liberties. Uhlfelder also wants to preserve Florida’s history of open government, calling the Legislature’s moves to close government records and meetings “disgusting.” He would staff his office with a Sunshine Law watchdog and monitor any secrecy exemptions proposed in legislation.

Aramis Ayala, 47, is a former state attorney in Central Florida who clashed with state Republicans and law enforcement over her refusal to seek the death penalty. Ayala worked as a prosecutor and public defender for nearly 15 years before being elected Orange-Osceola state attorney in 2016. Soon after taking office, she announced she would not seek the death penalty in any cases, sparking outrage among law enforcement groups and prompting then-Gov. Rick Scott to reassign dozens of death penalty cases from her office to a neighboring circuit. Ayala later reversed her policy and did not seek reelection in 2020. She champions her past efforts to reform what she describes as an overly punitive criminal justice system and vows as attorney general “to make Florida both just and compassionate.”

A third candidate, Jim Lewis, 64, is a former Orlando-area and statewide prosecutor who has operated his own practice in Fort Lauderdale since 1992. Lewis says he wants to be “the people’s attorney general” and stand up to Big Sugar and “the right-wing agenda.” Lewis said he would tackle public corruption and environmental crimes, and he describes himself as a moderate who supports law enforcement and the death penalty. Lewis is a passionate, plain speaker with a serious agenda for the office. He has run unsuccessfully for judge and state attorney, among other offices, and placed a distant third in his independent bid for the Florida attorney general’s post in 2010.

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Uhlfelder is a fresh, energetic face who would bring a sharp contrast and a viable campaign to the general election. His decades of work in the conservative Panhandle give Uhlfelder a balanced life view and the grounding to attract bipartisan support. His principled policy differences with Moody would force her to defend her record and vision, and it would remind Floridians of the broad role for this Cabinet office.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Daniel Uhlfelder in the Democrat primary for Florida Attorney General.

The recommendation process

Before making a recommendation, the Times Editorial Board asks candidates to fill out questionnaires and sit for an interview. The process can also include running criminal and civil background checks, interviewing candidates’ colleagues and employers, reviewing voting records and financial disclosures and examining their past and current positions on relevant issues.

Candidate replies

Candidates not recommended by the editorial board are offered an opportunity to reply. Judicial candidates may send replies of up to 150 words by 5 p.m. Aug. 4 to Editor of Editorials Graham Brink at voterguide@tampabay.com.Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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