Palm Beach Post: Endorsement: Attorney General: Gelber over Bondi

Oct 12, 2010

Editorial Board

Palm Beach Post

Hard as it may be to do, voters must forget about the federal health care law when picking Florida's attorney general.

Republican Pam Bondi believes that the law is unconstitutional and supports state participation in a challenge of the law. Democrat Dan Gelber believes that the law is constitutional; he would drop the lawsuit. In fact, the challenge will go on whatever Florida does, and Ms. Bondi and Sen. Gelber would have to follow whatever the courts say. More important are the candidates' qualifications and priorities for attorney general. By that standard, Sen. Gelber is better.

Start with public corruption. This year in the state Senate, Mr. Gelber introduced legislation that would have criminalized much of what passes in the Legislature and local government as business as usual, such as having a financial interest in legislation and not disclosing it. Republicans blocked those tough bills and passed a weak alternative that Ms. Bondi considers adequate, though she "would be willing to take a look at" a financial disclosure law.

Another big issue for the next attorney general will be claims from the BP oil spill. Sen. Gelber urged the Legislature to review Florida's liability laws and make sure that individuals and the state itself recover all damages. Ms. Bondi has all the proper concerns about the claims system created by mediator Ken Feinberg but doesn't understand the complexities as well as Sen. Gelber.

Ms. Bondi spent 18 years as a state prosecutor in Hillsborough County. She handled many major cases and had a good record, but her legal expertise isn't nearly as wide as that of Sen. Gelber. He spent eight years as a federal prosecutor in Miami, going after everyone from drug smugglers to scammers. At the end, he was supervising almost as many lawyers as the state attorney general does. Then came two years as a Senate aide in Washington and 14 years in private practice. Ms. Bondi, who made dozens of appearances on Fox News as a "legal analyst," got a bump in the primary when Sarah Palin endorsed her.

For eight years, with Charlie Crist and Bill McCollum, Florida has had an attorney general focused on running for governor. Sen. Gelber has the potential to make the office as strong a consumer advocate as it was for 16 years under Bob Butterworth. Sen. Gelber wants to beef up the economic crimes division and scrutinize large state privatization contracts. In the Legislature, he sided repeatedly with consumers over insurance and utility companies, opposing a culture in Tallahassee that he says has "great allegiance to a structure that is destructive to the average Floridian." Ms. Bondi is endorsed by the state's business groups. Her campaign finance chairman is a vice president of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida who is a registered lobbyist for his company.

Yet Ms. Bondi tags Sen. Gelber as a "career politician," falling back on one of the talking points Republicans are using to nationalize this year's state election. In fact, Pam Bondi is the candidate who has the state's ruling class behind her. Sen. Gelber is the candidate who wants to shake up the system, and he has the skill to do so.

Special Message from Dan Gelber's "Little Brother"- Travis Thomas

Web Video: Bio Piece on Dan Gelber

Sen. Gelber debates against two amendments to HB 1143 that took aim at a woman's right to privacy

Final Video Message from Tallahassee: 2010 Legislative Session was guided by ideological frolics and a politically driven agenda

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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Dan Gelber.