February 10, 2010

Trial lawyers hire Dem guru Schale as political director

Steve Schale, the Democratic campaign guru and former Obama campaign Florida director, is taking the helm for the political operations at the Florida Justice Association, the advocacy arm of the trial lawyers lobby.

As the association's new political director, Schale replaces Albert Balido who was demoted after the infamous race-baiting flier the trial lawyers used in the state Senate campaign against John Thrasher. "It's a different challenge for me," Schale said. "The association is trying to make some changes."

Schale cut a deal with the trial lawyers to retain his campaign consulting clients, including state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami, who is running for Attorney General. Schale said it won't conflict with the association's work because the group is not taking a position in the race, where Gelber faces state Sen. Dave Aronberg.

He said he won't lobby for the group but will advise on the campaign world. He said he plans to implement some institutional controls to prohibit the embarrassment of the Thrasher ad. And for loyal followers, his contract allows him to keep his blog.

January 25, 2010

Democratic AG candidates differ in style, substance

At first glance, they seem alike: Both men are politically ambitious lawyers and state senators from South Florida.

But real differences separate Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber, who are fighting for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. The contest is one of three down-ballot statewide races likely to be decided by TV ads and obscured by high-profile free-for-alls for U.S. Senate and governor. Read Steve Bousquet's story.

January 12, 2010

Dave Aronberg, mixed martial arts fan

Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat running for Attorney General, lists the following recreational interests on his official biography: golf, exercise, guitar, driving back and forth on State Road 80.

Well, you can add another to the list -- mixed martial arts. The sport combines several different forms of fighting and has skyrocketed in popularity. MMA events in Florida have tripled since the 2004-05 budget year.

After hearing during a committee presentation that there is an MMA fight scheduled in Tallahassee on Jan. 23 (the Saturday after a committee week) Aronberg's face lit up.

Explaining his fandom, Aronberg said, "It started off as really like a blood sport. It was like a bad Eric Roberts movie. Since then it's been regulated. It's become mainstream."

January 08, 2010

Gelber posts lower-than-expected fund-raising number

Democratic Attorney General candidate Dan Gelber's campaign announced it raised $205,000 in the final quarter of the year. The total is much less than the $315,000 haul from the previous period.

Gelber campaign manager Christian Ulvert said the figure is less than expected but the campaign isn't worried after raising $670,000 in 2009. No word on the present cash-on-hand so far.

One reason for the lower number: the special session. Ulvert said Gelber, a state senator, canceled a major Dec. 10 fundraiser after lawmakers were called back to Tallahassee to deal with the Sun Rail legislation.

Senate rules say fundraising is prohibited during a special session -- but not if the event was scheduled before the call for the session. Even still, Gelber said holding such an event would violate the spirit of the law, Ulvert said.

Gelber's opponent in the primary, Sen. Dave Aronberg, didn't cancel his Tampa fundraiser Dec. 7. Arongberg, D-Greenacres, has yet to disclose his latest figures.

December 17, 2009

Gelber gets former Gov. MacKay's support

Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, has the endorsement of former Gov. Buddy MacKay. Gelber is running against fellow Sen. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres for the Democratic attorney general primary.

"Our state is at a crossroad and now more than ever we need a leader like Dan Gelber who will confront the challenges of today with bold solutions," MacKay said, in a release from the Gelber campaign. "Dan is the candidate most equipped with the skills and experience to serve as Attorney General and will put his more than decade of prosecutorial experience to work on day one. His record prior to elected office and during his more than nine years in the Florida Legislature on every issue, from fighting for a quality education system to preserving our environment and standing up against scam artists and crooks who prey on seniors is why I am proud to support Dan."

Gelber also has been endorsed by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

December 08, 2009

Oh, the inconvenience of a special session vs. moneyraising

Opponents of Sen. Paula Dockery, the moderate Republican running against AG Bill McCollum for the gubernatorial Republican primary, say her recent Facebook page post inviting "friends" to a fundraiser this weekend was not a violation of Senate money-raising rules.

But the Lakeland lawmaker took the post down this morning anyway, "in an abundance of caution." When the Times/Herald asked Dockery about it earlier today, she said she doesn't always man her FB candidate page and was not aware someone on the campaign had posted fundraiser information. She said she did not want the information posted on the page. Within 15 minutes, the post was gone.

Dockery said she didn't consider it a rule breaker, though, stressing that Senate rules against soliciting donations during a session or special session only apply to senators seeking re-election to the chamber.

"I'm not seeking re-election."

Meanwhile, Rep. David Rivera of Miami transformed a planned fundraiser into a "meet and greet." And Sen. Dave Aronberg wasn't around the Capitol on Monday as the special session was underway -- he was at a fundraiser in Tampa. Aronberg's absence Monday left the regulated industries committee without a quorum.

Ouch. There's fodder for Aronberg's opponent for the Democratic primary for Attorney General, Sen. Dan Gelber, who was in Tallahassee for the session.

November 16, 2009

Aronberg gets labor endorsement

Attorney General candidate Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, just announced he is the first AG candidate to get endorsed by a labor union or group.

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), AFL-CIO, District Council 78 Florida, is backign Aronberg over his Democratic opponent Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach.

“I am honored by IUPAT's endorsement,” Aronberg said in a release. "These dedicated men and women can be confident that when I am Attorney General, I will continue to stand up for the working people of our state."

IUPAT DC 78 Florida represents more than 5,000 members in Florida.

October 21, 2009

FOP endorses Dave Aronberg

State Sen. Dave Aronberg just got the endorsement of the state's second-largest police union, Fraternal Order of Police, in in the race for attorney general.

“After careful consideration by our legislative screening committee, it is my pleasure to announce that the Florida State Lodge, Fraternal Order Of Police proudly gives our full endorsement and support of Dave Aronberg for Attorney General,” James W. Preston, president of FOP Florida State Lodge, said in a written statement.

October 11, 2009

Dem AG rivals are 'friends' with elbows

Democratic attorney general rivals Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg called each other "friends'' in front of a crowd of Democratic activists in Orlando but sought to raise doubts about each other's experience, voting record and political ambitions.   

Aronberg said being attorney general was his "dream job'' and indirectly chided Gelber for initially running for the U.S. Senate before he switched races.

Gelber, 48, emphasized his experience as a federal prosecutor. Aronberg, 38, is also a lawyer.

"I like Dave, but I do believe experience matters,'' Gelber said.

October 09, 2009

Gelber says he raised $315 K for quarter, $65k over goal

Sen. Dan Gelber, running for Attorney General in the Democratic primary against fellow Sen. Dave Aronberg, just sent an e-mail to supporters announcing he exceeded his $250,000 quarterly fundraising goal by about $65,000 -- and $100,000 of his total was raised online.

No word yet on money matters from the Aronberg camp. Republican AG candidate Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp's campaign folks say their accountants are still tallying the numbers. And AHCA head Holly Benson, the buzz has it, will decide whether to challenge Kottkamp after seeing his numbers.

Here is Gelber's e-mail:

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