Race Analysis: Florida Attorney General Democratic Primary
Dennis "Mitch" Maley
The Democratic primary for Florida’s Attorney General features three candidates, the winner of which will face incumbent Republican Ashley Moody, who is unopposed in seeking her party’s nomination.
Daniel Uhlfelder, a 49-year-old "old country lawyer“ is considered the frontrunner, having raised more money than his two opponents combined. Uhlfelder has the biggest media profile after getting attention for his outspoken criticisms of Governor Ron DeSantis’ COVID policies and wearing a grim reaper costume in his first campaign video, which he also wore in videos criticizing DeSantis.
Uhlfelder also joined a lawsuit filed by Rabbi Barry Silver and Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach which argues that the state’s new law banning most abortions after 15 weeks violates the state constitution’s right to privacy and freedom of religion. Uhlfelder has pledged not to enforce the law if elected.
Uhlfelder has criticized Moody for being one of 10 GOP attorneys general to sign onto a brief that sought to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that allowed Pennsylvania elections officials to count some late-arriving absentee ballots. Taking on utility companies seeking rate hikes, oil companies who gouge on prices, corporate developers contributing to the lack of affordable housing, and property insurance companies who have raised rates to crisis levels are his top priorities.
Aramis Ayala, 47, became the first Black state attorney in Florida when she was elected in 2016. She served one term from 2017-21. Ayala also has 10 years of experience as a public defender. A video of Ayala being pulled over just months after she was elected state attorney went viral with critics arguing that it was a case of racial profiling.
Ayala is a fierce critic of the death penalty and created a divide in opinion when she announced that her office would not seek the death penalty for convicted murderers. This is seen as a potential challenge in the current political climate, should she win the nomination and face Moody, who has raised considerably more money than all three Dems combined and is extremely popular with her party.
"As both a former prosecutor and public defender I saw the struggles faced by so many Floridians as a result of injustice,“ said Ayala in a statement. "My work as Attorney General will give them a voice and ensure that, in me, they have a fierce defender and advocate.“
The third candidate in the race is Jim Lewis, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer. Lewis, 64, has unsuccessfully run for a lot of offices over the years as a Democrat, NPA, and Republican candidate. Having made a pledge not to spend more than $15,000 in the primary, he stands little to no chance of getting the nomination.
Whoever wins is going to have their work cut out for them in facing a popular and well-financed incumbent who has a popular GOP governor on the same ballot to drive down-ballot turnout. In that sense, Uhlfelder seems like the only candidate who would stand even a longshot chance in the general election.
Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of ourweekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County governmentsince 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Clickherefor his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is availablehere.