ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s attorney general is not just the state’s top prosecutor. The holder of the job also pledges to protect the interests of Floridians, whether that’s going after consumer fraud, price gouging or taking part in national lawsuits against groups that take advantage of residents.
The attorney general also sits on Florida’s cabinet, is supposed to advise the governor, decide whether to restore the civil rights of former felons and hear cases ranging from insurance and financial regulation to permitting and state investments.
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Florida’s attorney general, Republican Ashley Moody, is running for reelection. Moody has long said that the purpose of the attorney general is to uphold the laws and statutes of the state of Florida, no matter what.
Challenging her is a Democrat, Aramis Ayala, a former prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties with a controversial history. She believes the attorney general should be able to act more independently.
Let’s meet the candidates.
Ashley Moody is a Plant City native who was an attorney, a federal prosecutor and a circuit court judge before winning the attorney general position in 2018.
Moody has used her position to create greater awareness about the dangers of fentanyl, crack down on human trafficking and cyber crimes, and pursue class-action lawsuits against companies over opioids.
She’s also made several controversial legal moves. She signed onto a multi-state lawsuit to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections in several states, which was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. She has sued the Biden administration on issues ranging from immigration to mask mandates. She’s supported Gov. Ron DeSantis on every issue, even when legal experts and judges call state laws into question.
This is part of her belief that if voters voted people into office, and those people pass a law, it’s her duty to defend it.
Aramis Ayala is an attorney in Orlando who gained prominence when she served a term as the state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties — the Ninth Judicial Circuit — from 2017 to 2020. Before that, she was an assistant state attorney and an assistant public defender.
Ayala ran on a platform of criminal justice reform, and she made a splash in that arena by refusing to seek the death penalty for Markeith Loyd, who has since been convicted for the murders of his ex-girlfriend, her unborn child, and an Orlando police lieutenant, Debra Clayton.
In retaliation, then-Gov. Rick Scott took the Loyd case away from Ayala, along with other death penalty cases. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott.
Instead, Ayala created a death penalty review board to decide whether a case merits the death penalty. She championed civil citations instead of punishment for non-violent first-time juvenile offenders, a coalition for domestic abuse and child abuse and established a low-income bail fund. She also tackled the issue of wrongful convictions with a conviction integrity board.
She plans to continue those policies if elected as state attorney general. She also promises to be a more independent attorney general.
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