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  1. Opinion

Times recommends: Ashley Moody for attorney general

EVE EDELHEIT   |   TimesAshley Moody, Republican candidate for attorney general, poses for a portrait at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg on June 26, 2018.
EVE EDELHEIT | TimesAshley Moody, Republican candidate for attorney general, poses for a portrait at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg on June 26, 2018.
Published Oct. 2, 2018

The most certain outcome in the November election is that the next Florida attorney general will be from Tampa and have a law degree from the University of Florida. Republican Ashley Moody and Democrat Sean Shaw both have been public servants who have served the community well. Moody has the stronger legal experience and is best prepared to become attorney general and serve on the Cabinet.

Moody, 43, is a fifth generation Floridian who grew up in Plant City and started her career in business litigation at Holland and Knight. She then became a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville and Tampa, working cases involving drugs, fraud and offenses involving firearms. She was elected as a Hillsborough Circuit Court judge in 2006, and she has varied experience in juvenile court, family law and felony criminal divisions. She has a reputation for fairness and for running efficient courtrooms among prosecutors, defense lawyers and fellow judges. Moody resigned last year to campaign and has been strongly supported by term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi.

As attorney general, Moody should be more independent than the incumbent and less tied to the next governor. She remains committed to seeking ways to provide more access to lawyers and the legal system after volunteering to help victims of domestic violence and being a leader of pro bono efforts. While Moody opposes the constitutional amendment on the November ballot that calls for the 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 -- another welcome change from Bondi's support of the unfair, cumbersome system now in place.

Moody pledges to continue to focus on the state's opioid crisis, recognizing education and treatment programs are part of the solution and planning to create a statewide task force to recommend and promote best practices. She would pay close attention to cases involving the abuse of the elderly, and she wants to help crime labs keep up with technological advances. She would be wise to be more circumspect than Bondi about intervening in multistate lawsuits outside Florida that are not in the state's best interests, such as a court fight over the Affordable Care Act in Texas and an environmental lawsuit challenging the clean-up efforts of Chesapeake Bay.

Shaw, 40, is the son of the late Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw Jr. and a trial lawer in private practice. He 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. The Democrat was elected to the Florida House in 2016 and was a strong voice for his party, but he quickly grew frustrated in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Shaw is correct that the attorney general's office has become too passive and too often acts like the general counsel to the governor rather than as an independent office. He would try to hold the Legislature accountable for failing to follow the intent of constitutional amendments, including those that legalized medical marijuana and set aside resources for affordable housing and environmental preservation.

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Unlike Moody, Shaw supports a ban on assault weapons and opposes the stand your ground law. He is on the right side of those issues -- but they are issues for the Legislature, not the attorney general. And while Shaw's vow to investigate President Donald Trump's Florida businesses for possible Russian money laundering sounds good on the campaign trail, that is more appropriate for the special counsel in Washington.

Moody has the legal background to be successful and remains committed to helping Floridians who need access to the legal system and protection from abuse. For Florida attorney general, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Ashley Moody.

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