Updated 8/1/22 at 8:47 AM, 8/4/22 at 8:02 AM
Democrats Aramis Ayala, Jim Lewis, and Daniel Uhlfelder are running to be the next Florida Attorney General.
Only registered Democrats may vote in this closed Democratic primary. The winner will face incumbent Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, who is seeking reelection to a second term and has no Republican opponents.
The position is one of three members of the Florida Cabinet, as I explained in my previous post about the candidates running for Commissioner of Agriculture.
In this post, I will review the responsibilities of the Attorney General. Then I will share what I have learned about the three Democratic candidates. (See my post, My Approach: How I Research Candidates.)
What Does the Attorney General Do?
The Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the state. To qualify for election, the Attorney General must be at least 30 years old, have resided in the state for the preceding seven years, and have been a member of the Florida Bar for the preceding five years.
The Office of the Attorney General provides a wide variety of legal services in the areas of criminal and civil litigation, statewide prosecution, victim services, and administrative services.
The Department has a FY 2022-23 budget of $381 million and employs almost 1,500 positions. For more on the Office, see its website here and program summary here.
Aramis Ayala, 47, received a B.A. from the University of Michigan, a J.D. from the University of Detroit — Mercy School of Law, and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida.
After serving as an Assistant State Attorney and as an Assistant Public Defender for nearly 15 years, she was elected in 2016 to serve as State Attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit (Orlando).
As “the first Black state attorney in Florida history,” she says on her website, she “fearlessly took on the status quo to build safer, healthier communities.” She says she did this by creating innovative pre-trial diversion programs, new police accountability and oversight reforms, and initiatives to support victims of domestic violence.
Following her 4-year term as State Attorney, Ayala joined the faculty in the Legal Studies Department at the University of Central Florida as an assistant professor. She previously held positions as an adjunct professor of law at Florida A&M University School of Law, a legal analyst, and as the chairperson of the Citizens Police Review Board for the City of Orlando.
She is a Past President of several local and state bar associations and served as a Florida Bar Board of Governors Ex-Officio Member. On a national level, she was the regional director for the National Bar Association and was appointed to chair the Pro Bono and Public Service Committee of the National Bar Association.
Ayala’s husband David served seven years in prison on drug conspiracy and counterfeiting charges in New York before they met. He was released in 2006. After subsequently moving to Florida, he mistakenly registered to vote and voted in 2012 and 2014, despite not having had his voting rights restored here as they had been in New York. (Orlando Sentinel, 8/25/16; Orlando Sentinel, 3/7/19)
“As both a former prosecutor and public defender, I saw the struggles faced by so many Floridians as a result of injustice,” Ayala says on her website. “My work as Attorney General will give them a voice and ensure that, in me, they have a fierce defender and advocate.” She offers no specifics on her website.
According to her website, her key accomplishments include:
- Implemented diversion programs to keep non-violent juveniles out of the system.
- Protected First Amendment Rights of Black Lives Matter protesters.
- Investigated wrongful convictions.
- Increased resources for abuse survivors.
- Relentlessly pursued justice for hate crimes and gun violence, including prosecution for the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
- Website — aramisayala.com
- Facebook — Aramis Ayala
- Twitter — @AramisAyalaFL
- Instagram — AramisAyalaFL
- LinkedIn — Aramis Donell Ayala
- Florida Bar — Member Profile
- Aramis Ayala for Attorney General — Video (1:35)
- Interview — Video (36:13), Spectrum News, 7/20/22
Ayala has been endorsed by Ruth’s List Florida, pop singer John Legend, Young Dems of Orange County and Florida College Democrats, Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, Democracy for America, Working Families Party, and SEIU Florida.
James Stewart Lewis Jr., 64, earned a B.A. in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from the University of Central Florida and a Law Degree from Stetson University Law School.
He served as Assistant State Attorney in Orange County, FL, 1981–1985; Special Prosecutor, Office of Governor Bob Graham, Statewide Grand Jury of Florida, 1985–1986; and Assistant Statewide Prosecutor, Office of Attorney General Bob Butterworth, 1987–1992.
Since 1993, Lewis has privately practiced criminal defense law based in Fort Lauderdale.
Lewis has run for office — as a Democrat, as a Republican, and as an independent/no party affiliation candidate — many times before. Among the jobs he has sought previously: state attorney general (2010), Broward state attorney (2012 and 2020), Broward public defender, Fort Lauderdale mayor, Fort Lauderdale city commissioner, circuit judge, and state representative. He never won. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/10/22)
“It’s time to move away from extreme partisan politics and work together for the people of this great state.” According to his website, Lewis will:
- Work with state attorneys and police to keep us safe and insure the criminal justice system is fair for everybody.
- Protect our fragile environment by prosecuting those who seek to threaten our natural resources.
- Unlike incumbent Ashley Moody, I will fight against Texas type anti-abortion Legislation that tries taking away women’s right to choose.
- Protect voting rights for all citizens by keeping politics out of fair and accurate elections.
- Keep extremism out of state government working with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to solve Florida’s problems.
- Stop putting people in jail for marijuana possession. Treat it like alcohol, do not drive with it, and do not consume it in public areas, smoke at home.
- Keep state government out of local decisions, let school boards run their schools, and county and city governments make local decisions.
- Website — jimlewis4florida.com
- Facebook — Jim Lewis for Florida
- Florida Bar — Member Profile
- Interview — Video (35:24), Spectrum News, 7/6/22
In the News
- Fort Lauderdale’s perennial political candidate Jim Lewis is running again, this time for Florida attorney general, South Florida Sun Sentinel, 2/10/22
- Democratic challenger emerges in Attorney General race, Florida Politics, 10/27/21
- State Attorney Candidate Jim Lewis’s five craziest court cases, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, 9/7/12
Lewis has been endorsed by Muslims for Democracy and Fairness PAC.
Daniel W. Uhlfelder, 49, earned a B.A. in History from Stanford University. He attended the University of Florida College of Law and the Georgetown University Law Center and received a J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law in 1996.
He then served as a judicial law clerk to a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Florida and later spent two years as a trial attorney with Colson, Hicks, Eidson in Miami.
In 2001, Uhlfelder established his law firm, Daniel W. Uhlfelder, P.A., in Northwest Florida. The firm focuses on the areas of civil and commercial litigation, real estate law, foreclosure defense, association law, construction litigation, bankruptcy, family law, personal injury, and criminal law.
Uhlfelder has a national media profile as a result of his outspoken criticisms of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ COVID policies and wearing a grim reaper costume in his first campaign video and videos criticizing DeSantis.
Uhlfelder also joined a lawsuit filed by Rabbi Barry Silver and Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach. The suit argues that the state’s new law banning most abortions after 15 weeks violates the state constitution’s right to privacy and freedom of religion. Uhlfelder has pledged not to enforce the law if elected. (The Bradenton Times, 7/27/22)
Uhlfelder will focus on six priorities as Attorney General:
- Defending Democracy — defend democracy from GOP assaults, including from Ashley Moody, who signed on to a brief to overturn the 2020 election.
- Utility Rate Hikes — take on utility companies like Florida Power & Light who are causing our rates to skyrocket.
- Oil Price Gouging — go after oil companies who are gouging the price of gas.
- Corporate Developers — challenge corporate real estate developers who are raising our rents.
- Insurance Companies — hold accountable insurance companies who have jacked up property insurance to crisis levels.
- Right to Choose — defend a woman’s right to choose: refusing to prosecute a woman for getting an abortion or a doctor for providing one.
- Website — danielforag.com
- Facebook — DanielForAG
- Twitter — @DWUhlfelderLaw
- TikTok — danieluhlfelder
- Interview — Video (43:37), Spectrum News, 7/6/22
- Ballotpedia Candidate Survey
- Florida Bar — Member profile
- Firm website — Daniel W. Uhlfelder, P.A.
In the News
- Al Lawson throws support to Daniel Uhlfelder in AG race, Florida Politics, 8/1/22
- Daniel Uhlfelder lands support for Attorney General bid from Senate heavyweight, Florida Politics, 7/29/22; Twitter, 7/28/22
- Uhlfelder protests Walton schools’ book ban, calling it ‘government overreach and suppression’, Northwest Florida Daily News, 5/10/22
- Daniel Uhlfelder: I wouldn’t prosecute abortions, Florida Politics, 5/3/22
- ‘Grim reaper’ Daniel Uhlfelder enters race for Florida attorney general. News Service of Florida via Tampa Bay Times, 3/9/22
- A lawyer dressed as the Grim Reaper is haunting Florida beaches to protest their reopening, CNN, 5/1/20
Uhlfelder has been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Miami Sen. Jason Pizzo, chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and a former assistant state attorney (article here).
AG Race in the News
- Democratic attorney general candidates at odds over death penalty — including for Parkland shooter, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/4/22
- Race Analysis: Florida AG Democratic Primary, The Bradenton Times, 7/27/22
Here are the contributions and expenditures reported by each candidate according to their most recent campaign treasurer’s reports:
Ayala received a total of 457 contributions, of which 13 were for the maximum $3,000. Seventy-two percent of the amount raised came from within Florida. Contributors include sports figure Shaquille O’Neal ($3,000), Coconut Grove Councilman Joseph Brown ($3,000), Ruth’s List Florida PAC ($1,000), and City of Coral Springs Commissioner Nancy Metayer ($100).
Lewis received a total of 15 contributions, of which the majority were from attorneys in Fort Lauderdale. He also loaned his campaign $15,000.
Uhlfelder received a total of 3,010 contributions of which five were for the maximum $3,000, 41 were between $1,000 and $2,999, and the rest were for less than $1,000. Of the total amount contributed, 73 percent came from within Florida.
Only you can decide which candidate you think would make a better Attorney General. If you have questions about any of the candidates, don’t hesitate to contact them directly through their website.
If you have questions or need additional information about the election itself, visit the Collier County Supervisor of Elections website or call 239-252-8683.