Gelber Jumps Into Attorney General Race
In withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race, state Sen. Dan Gelber said he wanted to avoid a Democratic "circular firing squad."
But Monday he fired a shot in another 2010 ring anyway.
As expected, Gelber said that he will run for attorney general in 2010, joining Sen. Dave Aronberg in the Democratic primary. Gelber, a former federal prosecutor and staff attorney in the United States Senate, also spent eight years in the state House representing Miami Beach, including two as minority leader.
Gelber touted his record in an announcement video on his redesigned Website, saying his legal background made him a natural replacement for Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is vacating the office next year to run for governor.
"More than two decades ago, at the age of 25, I stood in a small federal courtroom in Miami and said for the first time, 'My name is Dan Gelber and I represent the United States of America,'" Gelber said in the video. "It was at that precise moment – filled with pride and humility – that I knew pubic service would be my path.
"And that is where I spent my life," he continued. "Fighting corruption as a federal prosecutor for nearly a decade, investigating terrorism as the chief counsel of the U.S. Senate’s investigations committee, volunteering as a big brother in the Big Brothers program for 25 years and working for Florida families as a member of the Florida Legislature for the last decade."
Gelber also positioned himself as watchdog for ordinary Floridians, saying the attorney general had to be more than just a prosecutor for the state.
"The Attorney General is not merely Florida's top cop, but must also be the strongest advocate that every day Floridians have in government – the person they know is worried about their safety and the security of their children, and the person who makes sure that their rights are not being trampled upon," he said. "This is a task I'm fully prepared to assume."
Until last weekend, Gelber had been a candidate for the U.S. Senate. But he used his time before the Florida Democratic establishment at the Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner in Miami Beach to announce the end of that campaign, saying that he was withdrawing from the Senate race to "explore other opportunities in the Cabinet" and to promote party unity.
Gelber’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Aronberg shares a strong legal background. Aronberg, D-Greenacres, was an assistant attorney general under Bob Butterworth and served in the administrations of President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury Department for international money laundering.
In the hours following Gelber's announcement, Aronberg told the News Service that he welcomed the Miami Beach Democrat to the primary, but he also argued that he would emerge the better choice for Democratic nominee.
"My Senate seat is one of most competitive in the Legislature," said Aronberg, who was first elected in 2002. "I have been able to win in Republican areas. That's an important attribute for the Democratic nominee. You need to be able to win in November."
Aronberg acknowledged that he and Gelber had been discussing avoiding an AG primary with party leaders, though neither man ultimately stepped aside. But Aronberg also said a primary would not necessarily weaken the party's chances of taking the Cabinet seat.
"Primaries don't have to be destructive," he said. "They can be a good way to energize the base and to make us better candidates. Primaries are only harmful when they get negative and they don't have to be."
A third possible Democrat in the race, former state Sen. Rod Smith, also has a legal background, having served as State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit for eight years prior to being elected to represent Gainesville in 2000. Smith ran for governor in 2006, losing the nomination to Jim Davis, who went on to be defeated by Gov. Charlie Crist, himself a former AG.