Races for Attorney General in Florida get edgier

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Back to the Democrats, Aronberg is unrepentant on his controversial BP mailer that he sent out a few weeks ago, where he attacked Gelber for working at the law firm retained by BP to handle its civil litigation in Florida.

Regular readers of this space are aware of the back and forth. In newspaper editorials, most of them have taken Gelber's side on the dispute, saying it was unfair of Aronberg to chastise Gelber, who ultimately did leave the firm (but Aronberg says not before he has asked him to - Gelber says no, he had already informed his superiors at Akerman Senterfitt).

"It's relevant," Aronberg insisted yesterday.  Aronberg admits that there is a difference of opinion among legal experts about whether or not Gelber, if elected AG, would have to recuse himself from any dealings with the oil giant in any future lawsuits the state might have with BP.  Aronberg said that even if there wasn't a conflict of interest, there could be the "appearance of impropriety," which he said would be terrible for the citizens of Florida if that were to be the case.

"If I'm the Attorney General, there will be no conflicts, no doubts," he said. "I just think that's an important issue, the issue of the AG being independent."

In the aftermath of the controversy, Gelber has fought back, telling the St. Pete Times Editorial board that Aronberg was "a juinor lawyer in his best moments," a comment that clearly has stung Aronberg, who says "personal attacks" should be out of bounds, insisting that his attacks on Gelber and his law firm's work with BP are legitimate.

"I respect Dan Gelber," Aronberg said Tuesday night, "even though he obviously doesn't respect me."

The only poll that we’ve seen conducted on the races for Florida Attorney General earlier this summer indicated that most Florida voters weren’t really engaged.  But it’s getting closer to crunch time, and we suspect that observers won’t be able to avoid following it in the weeks to come.

Yesterday Florida Democratic Attorney General candidate Dave Aronberg responded somewhat coolly to his opponent, Dan Gelber, about his suggestion that the two engage in 11 debates between now and their August 24 primary election, just 27 days away.

Speaking to CL last night, Aronberg said that he does hope to engage in more political debates with Gelber, but “I don’t want it to be a political ‘gotcha’”, which he claimed was what Gelber was aiming for.

Readers might recall how John McCain asked Barack Obama to engage in 10 debates throughout the summer of 2008, a la Lincoln-Douglas, to provide a service to the American public.  Obama rejected that plan.

We’ll have more from Aronberg in a moment, but let’s shift over to the GOP race for Attorney General. The St. Pete Times Steve Bosquet today reports on a controversy in that race over an e-mail sent last November from an attorney at the mammoth law firm Morgan & Morgan that suggested that if Bondi won this November she would hire the firm for consumer protection work.

The e-mail, written by Bondi's former boyrfriend, Billy Morgan, suggests that, but both Morgan and Bondi are vehemently denying it meant anything at all.  One of Bondi’s opponents, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp is all over it of course, saying he wants a state inquiry.

Whether there's anything to this, it will be interesting to see how Kottkamp and Bondi handle it at their debate scheduled for this weekend (Holly Benson is refraining from comment).

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