Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SUNSHINE NEWS: Democratic Candidates in Close AG Race Unleash Attacks

With two months to go, Gelber and Aronberg finally take off the gloves
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: June 29, 2010 12:22 PM
Allison North Jones, Betty Castor, Dan Gelber, Dave Aronberg, Jim Davis, News, Pam Iorio, Politics

With less than two months to go until the primary, the two candidates locked in a tight battle for the Democratic attorney general nomination are finally starting to launch attacks on each other.

Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, and Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, are both seeking the nomination and have waged a civil contest up to this point. So far, the race has been close with neither candidate gaining a real edge over the other in terms of fund-raising or endorsements. Some organizations -- such as the Florida AFL-CIO -- have offered praise for both candidates and simply decided to back whoever emerges from the Democratic primary.

After months of treating the other candidate with kid gloves, things changed in the race Monday when Aronberg called for Gelber to resign from Akerman Senterfitt, the powerful law firm that BP hired to handle legal problems resulting from claims over the oil spill in the Gulf. Aronberg said that this posed a conflict of interest. Gelber’s campaign team revealed Monday night that their candidate had already done so -- resigning from the firm last Thursday.

Gelber fired back Tuesday in an e-mail to the media and to his supporters.

“I resigned from my law firm upon learning after the fact that they had signed up to represent BP in court,” wrote Gelber. “Although lawyers do not assume the virtues or defects of their clients, I have been the leading and harshest critic of BP and of offshore oil drilling for many years, and believed if I am to run for attorney general, I should not have any association with the company.”

Gelber ripped into Aronberg, accusing his rival of opportunism and exploiting the incident in the Gulf for political purposes.

“But unfortunately, last night my opponent in the primary, in what could only be considered a rank political stunt, decided to politicize the tragic oil spill, calling on me to resign even after I had already done so,” wrote Gelber. “Sadly, while I continue to offer real solutions to hold BP accountable and help victims impacted by the spill, my opponent is focused on scoring political points. The stakes in this race are too important for politics-as-usual and I really hoped this campaign, unlike so many others, would remain on the high road.”

Aronberg’s campaign team fired back at Gelber, saying he only resigned from the firm, two months after the oil spill began, after pressure mounted against him.

“The only rank political stunt here is Sen. Gelber resigning under political pressure,” said Allison North Jones, a spokeswoman for the Aronberg campaign. “Dave Aronberg called on Dan Gelber to do the right thing and he conveniently did.”

Trying to build momentum, Gelber hit the campaign trail hard this week with a stop in Tampa for a fund-raiser tonight being hosted by a number of prominent Democrats including 2006 gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and former Education Commissioner and 2004 U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor. Gelber plans to campaign across Central and South Florida later in the week. Aronberg is also on the campaign trail the rest of the week, with appearances in Orlando and South Florida.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com, or at (850) 727-0859.

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