Attorney General Hopefuls Spar Gently

Mar 30, 2010

Howard Altman

The Tampa Tribune

It was a back-wax-free zone at the Tiger Bay Club luncheon featuring the Democrats running for state attorney general.

State senators Dan Gelber of Miami and Dave Aronberg of Greenacres continued, for the most part, their mutual pledge to keep their campaign for the Democratic nomination free of the acrimony seen in other races, most notably the Republican Senate primary where Gov. Charlie Crist suggested opponent Marco Rubio used a GOP credit card to get a back wax.

"If you came to look for back waxing and haircuts and who hugged who, you won't get it," Gelber said.

Short of each taking some comparatively gentle swipes at the other - designed to show the differences between candidates who are both state senators, both from South Florida, both Jewish - Aronberg and Gelber lived up to that promise.

Aronberg touted his experience in the AG's office under then-Attorney General Bob Butterworth, where he served from 1999 until running for state Senate in 2002. Under Butterworth, Aronberg said, he helped prosecute psychics such the infamous Miss Cleo and led an investigation into the marketing practices of OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.

"This is not a stepping stone for me, not a backup plan," Aronberg said, a jab at Gelber, who entered the Attorney General's race after dropping out if the U.S. Senate primary last year. "This is my passion."

Gelber talked about his near decade of experience in the U.S. Attorney's Office, which he joined in 1986 at 25.

"I spent my time actually being a lawyer, protecting people and preserving public safety," he said. "I prosecuted gangs, public officials, arsonists and Ponzi scheme artists."

Gelber's poke at his opponent addressed Aronberg's vote for a bill that allowed insurance companies into a program that gives corporations tax credits for donations to voucher programs.

"We are funding vouchers while rolling back Bright Futures," he said.

Both men saved their strongest barbs for sitting Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is one of the state attorneys general who filed a lawsuit challenging the federal health care bill.

Each called the lawsuit "frivolous."

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