GOP Florida Attorney General Primary Turns to ‘Campaign Welfare’

The two candidates running for the Republican nomination to replace term limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi have generally stayed close in terms of policy but, with a little more than a month and a half until the primary, the race could be heating up.

State Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola, and his campaign are hoping the issue of public campaign financing will resonate with primary voters.

The Florida Campaign Public Financing law was created in 1986 when the Democratic controlled Legislature determined the costs of running an effective campaign for statewide office had grown so expensive that

it was discouraging candidates from running. The Legislature enacted public financing laws to help encourage qualified persons to run for statewide offices.

White has said that the law isn’t needed and that taxpayer dollars should not be used in campaigns. He calls it “welfare for politicians” and that comment isn’t targeted at Democrats. Instead, it’s targeted at his primary opponent, former Judge Ashley Moody.

In targeted mailers and on talk radio, White and his campaign have criticized Moody for accepting matching funds.

The Moody campaign was quick to respond by saying that matching funds allow for an opportunity for Florida voters to hear the truth about the two candidates.

“Moody, a former prosecutor and judge, is the only candidate running to be Florida’s top prosecutor who has prosecuted a case,” insisted the Moody campaign. “Of course, those not eligible for this program hoping to buy the attorney general race with no experience would not support it.”

The Moody campaign has raised $2.64 million so far with around $2.1 million on hand. White’s campaign has raised $3.4 million. The Moody campaign pointed out that White’s campaign has loaned himself over $2.75 million dollars and insisted they do not have the warchest their opponent does.

But White took exception, claiming Moody is a multi-millionaire and should not be using taxpayer dollars.

“Using taxpayers dollars…benefits and protects established politicians,” White told Florida Daily.

Earlier this year in the Florida Legislature, Whites introduced legislation that would have stopped taxpayer money from being used in statewide political campaigns but the idea was shot down by his own party.

Some members of the Moody campaign told Florida Daily that Whites’s campaign isn’t doing enough to reach the voters and this issue has become a side show. They also noted their candidate has the support of more than half of the sheriffs who lead law enforcement in Florida’s 67 counties and has Bondi’s endorsement.

With a little more than seven weeks left in the primary, it remains to be seen if White is able to successfully make public financing an issue as the campaigns get ready to sprint to the finish line.

Contact Ed at Ed.Dean@FloridaDaily.com.

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