Republicans have an excellent candidate to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi. Ashley Moody has risen quickly and has broad experience, from private practice to federal prosecutor to circuit court judge in Hillsborough County. She is a solid conservative with a strong grasp of the role of attorney general and the importance of access to legal representation in every community.
Moody, 43, is a fifth-generation Floridian who grew up in Plant City and has bachelor's, master's and law degrees from the University of Florida. She started her career in business litigation at Holland and Knight, then became a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville and Tampa who worked cases involving drugs, fraud and offenses involving firearms. She was elected as a circuit court judge in 2006, and she has varied experience in juvenile court, family law and felony criminal divisions. She built a solid reputation with prosecutors, defense lawyers and fellow judges for fairness and for running efficient courtrooms before resigning last year to campaign for attorney general.
Outside the courtroom, Moody has worked to provide more access to lawyers and the legal system. She volunteered to help victims of domestic violence, established an attorney ad litem program to help juveniles who need representation and has been a leader in other pro bono efforts. She makes a strong argument that she has the perspective and varied experiences to be an effective attorney general.
Moody, who has been endorsed by Bondi and most of the state's Republican sheriffs, pledges to continue to attack the state's opioid crisis and says she "is not naive enough to think we can arrest our way out of it.'' She recognizes education and treatment programs are also part of the answer, and she would create a statewide task force to find and promote the best practices that are the most cost-effective. She also wants to focus on cases involving the abuse of elderly Floridians, and she wants to help criminal labs keep up with technological advances. While Moody opposes the constitutional amendment on the November ballot that calls for automatic restoration of voting rights for most felons who have completed their sentences, she supports the automatic restoration of rights for some nonviolent felons and would streamline the clemency process for some others.
Over the past eight years, Bondi has intervened in multistate lawsuits outside Florida that are not in the best interests of the state, including a fight over the Affordable Care Act in Texas and an environmental lawsuit challenging clean-up efforts of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. Moody is vague about how she would approach similar situations but says she would represent Florida's best interests. She also supports seemingly every initiative backed by the National Rifle Association, including the "stand your ground'' law and allowing concealed weapons on college campuses, arming teachers and permitting open-carry of guns.
Rep. Frank White, 39, of Pensacola is chief financial officer and general counsel for a chain of auto dealerships in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi owned by his wife's family. He has contributed at least $2.75 million to his own campaign and promotes himself as a "constitutional conservative'' who has been a local leader of the Federalist Society. He opposes abortion rights and supports gun rights, voting against the school safety improvements approved by the Legislature following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre because he opposed the minor gun control changes. He wants to fight opioid abuse and protect consumers from scammers.
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White just moved to Florida in 2010, served only two years in the House and is trying to buy a statewide office with family money. He cannot match Moody's knowledge of Florida or breadth of experience, and his attack ads accusing a solid conservative like Moody of being liberal are laughable.
In the Republican primary for attorney general, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Ashley Moody.