Democrats have two candidates for attorney general from Tampa with clear ideas about transforming the office into a more independent voice that would more aggressively protect consumers and the constitutional rights of all Floridians. Rep. Sean Shaw has the broader experience and better grasp of state politics to pursue that vision.
Shaw, 40, was born in Jacksonville and grew up in Tallahassee as the son of the late Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw Jr. He has a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Florida, and he has experience in both the private and public sector. He is a trial lawyer in private practice who previously served for two years as the state's insurance consumer advocate under former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, dealing with issues such as car insurance, homeowners insurance and workers' compensation. He was elected to the Florida House in 2016 and was a strong advocate for Democratic initiatives, but in the Republican-controlled House he quickly concluded he "didn't get into politics to sit in the back and push the red button all day.''
As attorney general, Shaw would focus on reducing gun violence. He would challenge the constitutionality of the state law that prevents local governments from approving their own gun restrictions, advocate for a ban on assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines and push for lawmakers to close the so-called gun show loophole that allows some buyers to avoid background checks. He calls for the repeal of the "stand your ground'' law and would use the attorney general's office to investigate the root causes of gun violence in Florida.
Shaw argues the attorney general's office has become too passive and too often acts like the general counsel to the governor or the Legislature than an independent office. He would hold the Legislature accountable for following the intent of constitutional amendments, including those that legalized medical marijuana and set aside specific resources to pay for environmental preservation and affordable housing. He would drop out of lawsuits Florida has joined in other states that he says do not protect the interests of Floridians, such as one in Texas challenging the Affordable Care Act. Shaw supports the automatic restoration of voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences as envisioned by Amendment 4, and he would re-establish a vigorous office of open government to help the public preserve and gain access to public records and meetings.
Ryan Torrens, 33, is a fifth generation Tampa native who has a bachelor's degree from the University of Tampa and a law degree from George Washington University. He has worked as a consultant for information privacy for the Energy Department and as an independent consultant reviewing foreclosure cases at Bank of America in Tampa. He established his own law practice five years ago, specializing in representing homeowners in foreclosure cases.
Torrens has intriguing proposals for increasing efforts on behalf of consumers in areas ranging from predatory lending to issues involving veterans and senior citizens. He would establish a voting rights division, and he would join multistate legal efforts to protect undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers. He would continue to go after opiate manufacturers, supports Amendment 4 and would be more vigorous in advocating for public records.
Shaw has the broader experience. In the Democratic primary for attorney general, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Sean Shaw.