Category: Latest News

Jay Fant wants second investigation of Broward Sheriff’s Department over Parkland shooting

Florida Politics

February 27, 2018

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Attorney General candidate Jay Fant wants a second investigation, including convening a grand jury, into the local response to the Parkland school massacre.

Even though Gov. Rick Scott has already tasked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into local law enforcement’s response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Jacksonville Republican lawmaker is now asking the Broward County State Attorney to begin his own inquiry into the event.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel faces increasing scrutiny for his agency’s response before, during and after the Feb. 14 incident.

Recently released records reportedly show the BSO responded to nearly 50 calls about Nikolas Cruz or his brother in the 10 years before Cruz went on his shooting spree at his former high school. According to CNN, call logs from the sheriff’s office show that between 2008 and 2017, authorities received 45 calls relating to Cruz or his brother.

Reasons for the calls range from “domestic disturbance” to “missing person” to “animal abuse”.

“Sheriff Israel and his deputies have failed their community,” Fant wrote Tuesday to Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz. “They failed before the shooting to properly identify and deal with the threat, despite at least 18 calls warning them that Nikolas Cruz planned to shoot up the school.

“They failed the day of the shooting when at least one deputy, and possibly more, failed to enter the building protect the students. I fear that without an independent, outside investigative body, they may fail us again.”

Fant concludes by advising Satz to reassign the investigation to another prosecutor if his office is stretched too thin with other matters to investigate BSO properly.

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Jay Fant on CNN: ‘We’ve seen enough from Sheriff Israel’

Florida Politics

February 26, 2018

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Rep. Jay Fant, a Republican candidate for State Attorney, renewed his calls for Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to step down in the wake of reportage that deputies stood down, as did the school resource officer, in a mass shooting that killed 17 in Parkland earlier this month.

Fant, a signatory on a letter from House Speaker Richard Corcoran on this matter, made his case on CNN Monday morning.

“We’ve seen enough from Sheriff Israel,” Fant said, noting that Israel said he demonstrated “amazing leadership” but has not demonstrated accountability in the wake of the stand down of one to four officers.

Gov. Rick Scott has avoided calls to remove Israel, instead tasking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

Fant did not pan this move.

“The governor is keenly sensitive to what is happening in Broward, that’s why he launched the FDLE investigation, but it’s not going to get better for Sheriff Israel, it’s going to get worse,” Fant said, referring to expected damning findings from the Coral Springs Police Department’s investigation of the incident.

Fant wants an independent prosecutor to look into what happened, he said.

In the wake of the Parkland homicides, Fant has been on national television with some frequency. He had a segment on “Meet the Press Daily” on MSNBC late last week.

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Pro-gun Florida Legislature nears deal on sweeping gun reform bill

Politico

February 22, 2018

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TALLAHASSEE — In a major and unprecedented move toward gun-control in the Republican-led Florida Legislature, the outlines are forming of a deal that would call on age limits and waiting periods for so-called assault rifles as well as a new program to arm school personnel to prevent future classroom slaughters.

The momentum for the quick legislative action after years of inaction was last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead. Students from that Parkland, Florida, school have flooded the capitol this week to lobby lawmakers for gun control legislation and have already suffered some stinging setbacks.

“When the people clamor at the rate that they have in the shadow of a terrible massacre like we saw, you see a reaction that you otherwise would not see,” said state Rep. Jose Oliva (R-Miami Lakes) who’s set to take over the House after this legislative session and acknowledged that he never expected to move gun control in the chamber.

Oliva said, however, that the students who traveled to Tallahassee to urge action on gun control Wednesday will probably be “disappointed” because lawmakers won’t ban military-style semiautomatic rifles.

Oliva said he’s not locking down Republican members to vote for the legislation, which he’ll likely unveil later this week or early next week, because “it’s a conscience vote and a Constitutional issue that every member has to decide.” But House members say the fact that the second-most powerful man in the top-down House will carry the legislation helps ensure its passage.

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican leading the talks on the Senate side, said that removing schools as so-called gun-free zones has gone a long way to bringing Republicans along to support age and wait period increases for semiautomatic rifles, such as AR-15’s.

The program that is getting the focus is called the Sentinel Program, which has been implemented by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd at Southeastern University last year. It allows specially trained school staff to carry concealed weapons on campus to respond to an active shooter.

“The Sentinel Program has picked up a lot of steam on both sides,” Galvano said.

He said that increasing the wait times for military-style semiautomatic rifles to three days and age limit for purchase to 21, both currently in place for handguns, have also been key elements of negotiations. Authorities say the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz is 19 years old and used an AR-15 to mow down his victims. He’s facing 17 counts of premeditated murder.

“We have had some productive negotiations so far,” Galvano said. “We are moving quickly towards agreement, and think we can have something as soon as the end of this week.”

Also backing Republican lawmakers: Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump, who have both signaled that they’re open to some measured gun-control legislation. Scott plans to announce legislation on Friday to address school safety and keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Still, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who wants to run for governor in a three-way GOP primary, has been uncharacteristically quiet and been put in a no-win situation politically, allies say, because the NRA is expected to oppose provisions of the bill that would increase regulations semiautomatic rifles, such as AR-15s.

“The smart ones are watching what Rick Scott does and what President Trump does and they’ll see today that the president is talking about age limits,” said a top Republican ally of the speaker who’s familiar with his thinking.

“If you’re Richard Corcoran, you wait and you don’t say anything so you can embrace Donald Trump and Rick Scott,” the source said. “It’s also important to say that how Richard votes could be different from the legislation that Oliva carries.”

Corcoran did speak with a group of Parkland students Wednesday on the House floor. He told them he wants to increase funding for armed school resource officers, get a special counsel to review failures that led to the shooting, and beef up background checks.

Corcoran played host to a crushing defeat for many of the students on Tuesday when he oversaw the House’s procedural vote to kill consideration of a ban on assault weapons, which is what many of the Parkland survivors had demanded of lawmakers. Some students were visibly upset when watching the vote.

Corcoran was asked directly about that issue Wednesday by the group of students he met with on the House floor.

“What I tell my kids about being in elected office, you have to be very careful of what authority you give the government,” he said. “I don’t think that [a ban] is the solution.”

Asked by the students why they should “trust” him, Corcoran responded: “We want this to be the end of it.”

Another ally of Corcoran’s expressed concern that he will pay a price that will only benefit one of his likely opponents, Rep. Ron DeSantis, in the race to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Passage in the Florida House, the more conservative and reactionary chamber in the Florida Legislature, is not guaranteed, Oliva said. Nor is opposition by the NRA a sure thing. NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said she wants to see the legislation first but has expressed concern to others about any incremental gun control measures.

House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Naples, said that if the gun bill’s tentative current outline holds, he does think there is a sense that there can be broad support in his chamber, which is the bigger sticking point.

“We think there is support there from a lot of members,” he said, while stressing negotiations are ongoing.

Many Republicans hail from GOP-heavy districts where they’re vulnerable to challenges from the right and some count on the endorsement of groups like the NRA. For state Rep. Jay Fant (R-Jacksonville), who’s running in a crowded GOP primary for attorney general on a gun rights platform, the waiting period doesn’t make much sense.

“So a law-abiding citizen is punished by a three-day waiting period, while a criminal gets a gun off the street?” Fant asked. “Why punish the law-abiding citizen?”

Fant said, however, that he would have to see the entire package of legislation before commenting on how he would vote.

Oliva, who said he owns an AR-15, said the weapon “blurs the line” between a handgun and a traditional rifle. But he thinks it should be regulated more like a pistol.

“A semiautomatic rifle like this one has more in common with a handgun in its use and capability than a traditional hunting rifle or a shotgun,” Oliva said.

Oliva said the legislation he envisions wouldn’t just deal with waiting periods and age limits for military-style semiautomatic rifles. The bill might also call for more mental health funding, more money for “hardening” schools and a new program for training specially chosen armed school personnel, modeled after Polk County’s “Sentinel” program.

Mirroring Corcoran’s special counsel idea, Oliva said he also wants a fact-finding panel of lawmakers to investigate what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the Valentine’s Day massacre.

“There were 39 visits to this shooter’s home. There were signs from the school. But when DCF [the Florida Department of Children and Families] met with the school, it would not share information. And then there’s the FBI issue,” Oliva said, referring to the federal agency’s failure to follow up on a tip about the shooter as late as Jan. 5.

“It’s unfortunate that the entire focus is on the weapon, when what is most concerning to many of us is the systemic failure at the local, state and federal level,” Oliva said.

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‘Pistols at Dawn’: Guns alive and well in GOP primary for Florida Attorney General

Florida Politics

February 22, 2018

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A tragic 2010 shooting in Tampa, in which a father was killed in front of his 8-year-old daughter while they were playing basketball, is a line of attack for a Republican candidate for attorney general.

State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, has been sending out news releases with headlines like “Pistols at Dawn” as a way to accuse a primary opponent, former Judge Ashley Moody of Plant City, of being soft on 2nd Amendment rights.

Fant’s salvo against Moody was delivered before the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, but he hasn’t backed off since

Moody was on the bench in the case of Trevor Dooley of Valrico, then 69, who shot his neighbor David James after the two got into an argument about James allowing a teen skateboarder to use the basketball court.

Dooley was convicted of manslaughter in 2012 and sentenced in January, 2013 to eight years in prison, but was freed on appeal in 2016. Fant contends Moody was unsympathetic to Dooley’s claim of self-defense under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, and that she gave the jury incorrect instructions in the case.

“You rejected Stand Your Ground as a defense for an accused man because he displayed his legally registered weapon before discharging it,” Fant said in a letter to Moody. “You allowed wrong instructions that ignored existing case law and therefore prohibited a ‘stand your ground’ defense.”

Moody responds that Fant is wrong about the law and the history of the case, which she says shows he’s not qualified to be attorney general.

He based his accusations, she said, on an incorrect news story, not on the court decisions in the case.

“You do not understand ‘stand your ground’ as it existed then or now, criminal law, or how to try a case,” she wrote back to Fant. “This is not surprising since you have never actually tried a case, prosecuted anyone, nor really practiced law.”

As a judge, Moody says, she wasn’t reluctant to grant “stand your ground” immunity and did so in another case.

Fant, who along with 70 other House Republicans this week voted to reject the discussion of an assault weapons ban, challenged Moody to debate gun rights March 1 at a gun shop in Tallahassee in a news release titled, “Pistols at Dawn.”

When she declined, he sent another news release titled “You Be the Judge,” asking supporters to sign a petition urging Moody to debate.

The debate “is more important now than ever,” Fant campaign spokeswoman Melissa Stone said following the Parkland shootings.

At issue in the argument are Moody’s decision to deny “stand your ground” immunity to Dooley in a hearing before his 2012 trial, and her instructions to the trial jury about what constitutes legitimate self-defense under the “stand your ground” law.

The key question: Did the law at the time allow someone engaged in illegal activity to claim “stand your ground” defense?

Fant says it did; Moody says it didn’t but acknowledges it does now.

Dooley said he shot James when the much younger, larger man attacked and started choking him.

But three witnesses including the skateboarder said Dooley first showed James the gun, and that James was trying to wrest it away. They said they didn’t see the choking.

In denying immunity, Moody cited the testimony about the fight and the assertion that Dooley flashed the gun, threatening James – a crime under Florida law.

“There was no reasonable belief that deadly force was required,” and criminal activity by Dooley rendered him ineligible for ‘stand your ground’ immunity, she wrote.

When Dooley claimed self-defense in the trial, Moody gave the jury instructions that “If the defendant was not engaged in an unlawful activity,” then he “had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”

Moody said the defense didn’t object to the jury instructions, which were proposed by the prosecution.

The prosecution argued that by flashing the gun, he was engaging in unlawful activity and therefore not legitimately defending himself.

But in 2013, after Dooley’s sentencing, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled in a different case that someone engaging in unlawful activity could still claim Stand Your Ground immunity.

“The law changed after trial,” Moody wrote in her response to Fant.

At least one Florida appeals court had previously ruled that a convicted felon with a gun couldn’t claim Stand Your Ground immunity because the felon would be breaking the law by having a gun.

Then-state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, now a senator and the author of the 2005 law, objected to the 2nd DCA’s 2013 decision.

“‘Stand your ground’ was written for law-abiding citizens,” Baxley told the Gainesville Sun at the time. “I think it’s perfectly clear that this doesn’t apply if you’re doing something illegal.”

In 2016, the 2nd DCA granted Dooley a new appeal and allowed him to be released on bail.

In that decision, the justices cited jury instructions it said were “erroneous” based on their own 2013 decision. They also cited Dooley’s lawyer’s contention that some parts of the Stand Your Ground law allowed the defense for people engaged in criminal activity.

In his challenge to Moody, Fant cited a Tampa Bay Times news story on the appeal decision that said the appeals court cited case law existing before the trial that criminal activity doesn’t affect “stand your ground” immunity.

But Moody said the story was wrong, and that Fant was basing his accusation on an incorrect news story. Fant’s campaign couldn’t point to that previous case law.

Tampa criminal law expert John Fitzgibbons, a Democrat, said he believes Moody’s jury instructions “were absolutely accurate and correct at the time,” but added, “This just illustrates the absolute nightmare it has been for judges lawyers and prosecutors to try to interpret the ‘stand your ground’ law. It’s been a mess.”

Two other Republicans, state Reps. Ross Spano of Dover and Frank White of Pensacola, are running the attorney general primary.

White and Fant have both attacked Moody, questioning her conservative credentials and her commitment to gun rights. Moody says she is a strong 2nd Amendment defender.

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Florida attorney general candidate on Parkland: ‘Let’s not let this tragedy take away our right to bear arms’

Tampa Bay Times

February 19, 2018

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At 12:31 p.m. Monday, state Rep. Jay Fant, a candidate for attorney general, tweeted that liberals are using the Parkland school shooting to push a political agenda.

At 12:32, Fant, R-Jacksonville, tweeted, “The Parkland killer has taken away enough from us. Let’s not let this tragedy take away our right to bear arms too.”

Fant used the tweets to call out Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum — a favorite conservative target. Like many Florida liberals, Gillum has been active in calling for gun control measures in the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting.

The Times/Herald reported Monday that Florida lawmakers were considering increasing age limits and extending waiting periods for certain assault weapons.

Some 100 students from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are set to tour the Florida Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jacyln Corin, the trip’s organizer and Douglas’ 11th grade class president, tweeted Monday that her classmates would lobby for a number of measures, including a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons.

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For Jay Fant, ‘liberals on Fake News’ are driving gun control debate

Florida Politics

February 16, 2018

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As the nation mourns the massacre of 17 people in a Parkland High School, a Republican candidate for Attorney General asserts that calls for gun control are the province of “liberals on Fake News.”

Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican, tweeted Friday that “Liberals on Fake News keep saying gun control is the answer. It’s not. Evil people will break any laws we can dream up to commit their evil acts.”

On Facebook, Fant expanded on the tweeted comments.

“Liberals will always think government and laws are the answer. But, that ignores the larger truth that those who are intent on carrying out illegal acts will break as many laws as we can dream up. The right to bear arms is not fundamentally about hunting and sporting. It’s about being able to protect and defend ourselves as a free people from the power of government,” Fant asserted.

“Taking away guns from law abiding people and giving them only to the government will not stop evil people from evil acts, it will only weaken the liberties of law-abiding Americans. Those liberties were created by our founding fathers to be sacred above all else – and specifically above any act to further empower government,” Fant added.

“The evil Parkland killer has taken enough from us. We must not let him be used to steal our constitutional rights too,” Fant noted.

Fant, who had challenged AG race opponent Ashley Moody to a “Second Amendment Debate,” seems to be predicating his campaign on an appeal to gun enthusiasts.

After a brief break in the immediate wake of the Parkland atrocities, he’s clearly back on message.

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Florida Republicans are turning Attorney General contest into race to the right

Tampa Bay Times
February 6th, 2018
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In the four-way Republican primary for attorney general, the GOP is again being pulled toward the right and ideological purity.

The four candidates are roughly equally matched in statewide name recognition — none of them has much — and as they battle to emerge from the pack, the shootout is turning tough early.

If there is a frontrunner, it might be former circuit Judge Ashley Moody of Plant City, who faces three Republican state House members: Jay Fant of Jacksonville, Ross Spano of Dover and Frank White of Pensacola.

But that impression by some party insiders comes from evidence that’s not conclusive: Moody’s early fundraising lead; her endorsements from 33 Republican sheriffs, 10 state attorneys and outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi; and being the only woman in a four-way race.

The only published polling, a robopoll by StPetePolls.org last month, showed a wide-open race with 69 percent undecided, Moody at 10 percent, Fant 9 percent, Spano 6 percent and White 4 percent.

What is clear is that Moody is a target for Fant and White, who are blasting her in an internet, direct mail and news release campaign as a “liberal judge,” closet Democrat and anti-Trump.

Spano, who didn’t file until after the attacks on Moody had begun, and who shares friends and allies with her in their east Hillsborough County home base, has avoided joining in.

Moody is fighting back by emphasizing her own experience in law enforcement, as a judge and prosecutor, which the other three, though all lawyers, don’t have.

It the primary a race to the right?

“I hope so,” said Fant in an interview after a forum for the candidates last weekend.

None of the four is what most people would call a liberal.

All have proclaimed themselves backers of gun rights, opponents of abortion, and in favor of the “sanctuary cities” bill House Speaker Richard Corcoran is seeking to push through the Legislative.

In an Orlando forum Saturday before a large crowd of conservative lawyers and judges in the Federalist Society:

— White, who repeatedly proclaims himself “a consistent and principled conservative,” promised to protect Florida from “threats from the left, from liberals – Democratic and Republican alike.”

— Spano promised to “check the power of the government that has begun to usurp in our individual lives” citing the Affordable Care Act and environmental regulations, and spoke emotionally of his opposition to abortion and the Roe v. Wade decision.

— Fant said he “may be the only tort reformer in the House of Representatives” and spoke of his relationship with Trump.

— Moody promised to oppose “over-regulation,” praised “my friend Gov. Scott” and said she supports Trump and his agenda.

But Moody appeared to be the top target on the stage, as Fant and White repeated charges they’ve lodged against her.

The back-and-forth got about as heated as it could in front of a crowd of well-dressed judges and lawyers in a huge Disney hotel banquet hall.

“I felt like I was back in junior high school,” said Spano.

Previously, Fant had publicly demanded, to no avail, that Moody be barred from a December state Republican Party meeting, contending she’s not a genuine Republican.

His evidence: Her family was part of a 2010 fraud lawsuit against The Trump Organization over the failed Trump Tower Tampa condominium, in which dozens of buyers lost their deposits and sued; former President Bill Clinton appointed Moody’s father to a federal judgeship; and she once worked as an assistant to then-American Bar Association President Martha Barnett of Tampa, a Democrat, who recently co-hosted a fundraiser for Moody.

He repeated those charges in form of questions directed at Moody during the forum, adding that she had donated to Democrat Bill McBride against Republican Jeb Bush in the 2002 campaign for governor.

Moody responded the litigation “has nothing to do with me being a conservative or me supporting our president and his conservative agenda” and called the attacks “unworthy of the office of Attorney General.”

White pointedly asked Moody whether she supports allowing open carry of firearms on government property including college campuses, which many state law enforcement officers, including some sheriffs backing Moody, oppose.

In the forum, she didn’t answer directly, saying she would have to see specifics of the legislation. Later, however, a campaign spokeswoman said Moody does support campus carry.

When he couldn’t ask Moody another question because of the forum rules, Fant still found a way to go after her —he asked the only Democrat at the forum, consumer lawyer Ryan Torrens of Tampa, “What positions do you share with Judge Moody?”

Torrens simply said he didn’t know — “I’m running as my own man.”

White has sent out a mailer attacking Moody on the same allegations that she’s tainted by a Democratic past, and set up a web site, “Liberaljudge.com.”

Moody wasn’t the only target in the forum.

She and Spano, a civil lawyer, used questions to highlight Fant’s comparative lack of experience practicing law – he’s chairman of a bank – and White’s comparative lack of experience in criminal law.

Fant responded that policy and executive experience are key to the job, and said business and management experience matter. White said the most important qualification is to be “a principled and consistent conservative.”

Asked whether they were criticizing her because she’s a frontrunner, Fant and White denied it.

White said the voters haven’t had time to form meaningful opinions yet, and Fant said, “Despite her protestations, she’s the leftward candidate.”

Both said they doubted that gender will affect the outcome in a Republican primary as it might in a Democratic primary, but Spano disagreed.

“There aren’t as many women in politics, and all other things being equal, a certain percentage even among the Republican electorate might say let’s give the woman a chance,” he said.

In an interview, Moody didn’t claim the title of frontrunner but said of the attacks, “Sometimes that indicates who people believe has the best chance of success.”

Her experience as a former judge and prosecutor sets her apart, she said.

“I think there’s going to have to be a response from my opponents as to why they don’t have the same support from the law enforcement community.”

As of the end of December, Moody, who filed in June just after Fant, had raised the most money from other contributors, about $1.5 million in her campaign, an independent committee and financial aid from the state party.

White, who filed in November, has raised about $2 million including $1.5 million from himself.

Fant has raised about $292,000 and loaned his campaign $750,000.

Spano, the latest to file in the race, has raised about $99,000 in his campaign and independent committee.

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During AG debate, Ashley Moody, Jay Fant go after each other over ‘liberal’ attacks

February 3rd, 2018
Florida Politics
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Former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and state Rep. Jay Fant went after each other hard Saturday over third-party ads charging her as “liberal,” exchanging charges during an Attorney General’s forum held during the Federalist Society Conference at Walt Disney World Saturday.

Moody and Fant were among four Republicans and one Democrat debating their campaigns for this year’s election. And while much of the debate focused on who could stake out the most conservative positions on legal issues – the answer never was Democrat Ryan Torrens, by the way – toward the end, the discussion turned personal and heated.

In front of about 400 lawyers and judges who are members of the conservative legal society at the Disney Yacht Club Resort, Moody questioned Fant about attacks on her in mailers and in other forms, which she said were false. His reply was to insist they weren’t attacks, to challenger her to say what was false, and to tell her to get used to it.

“This is what we do in the big leagues,” Fant said.

Florida Politics had reported earlier that another of the candidates, state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola, appeared to be behind the independent political committee attacks, and at one point Fant denied being behind the mailers that Moody cited. But while White and the fourth Republican, state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover, and Torrens, a private lawyer in Tampa, mostly just listened, Moody, of Tampa, laid it on Fant Saturday. And the Jacksonville representative didn’t back down.

In a debate round in which the candidates were permitted to ask questions of each other, Moody started by saying that Fant had, in a House primary election campaign, pledged to not attack a fellow Republican, and she asked of him, “I have been repeatedly attacked in this race, and I was wondering how you reconcile that with your earlier pledge from your previous race?”

Fant, who had challenged her conservative and Republican credentials before, replied to her question by calling her a “newcomer to partisan politics,” and lecturing her that, “the issues matter, and just because the issues make you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re being attacked.

“I might also add I’m not the only campaign that has discussed this contrast. There is more to this. So if you’re going to support a Bill McBride over Jeb Bush, we’re going to talk about it. If you’re going to have a history of suing Donald Trump, we’re going to talk about it. If you have alliances with liberals in the bar, we’re going to have to talk about it.”

“Misleading!” Moody interrupted.

“These are not attacks. They are contrasts,” Fant continued.

“Misleading, misleading campaign fliers from multiple campaigns are attacks. Misinformation from multiple campaigns are attacks,” Moody replied. “And I would just ask that all campaigns when disseminating informant, make sure that it is factually based.”

“I’m talking about mailers. I’m talking about attacks in this race that are unjustified, misinformed, and misleading,” she added. “I believe that we need to stick to the facts. We need to stick to what makes us conservatives. And we need to stick to keeping the debate true among Republicans, and not attacking unjustifiably in any primary.”

At some point while they bickered, the moment evolved into Moody answering Fant’s question. After all, he had the next turn, and his question essentially was, “What’s false about any of it?”

“It is important that we all remember as voters that information and facts are important. Moody said. “I was involved in litigation with Mr. Trump years ago regarding a condominium development that never camp to fruition. That has nothing to do with me being a conservative, or me supporting our president and his conservative agenda in Washington,” she said. “And to put forth information in mailers that would say otherwise, to give yourself name recognition, or a leg up in a primary, is just unworthy of the office of Attorney General,” Moody said.

That answer drew applause. In fact, she drew two rounds of applause during her responses on the matter. Otherwise, during the 90-minute forum, audience reactions had been quite rare, except for a couple of occasions when people laughed at Torrens’ sometimes provocatively-Democratic answers in previous rounds of questions.

After Moody drew her first applause, Fant replied, “I have compiled no mailers in my campaign. You may be referring to another campaign at this table, and you could direct this question to them. But I have yet to understand what is inaccurate about what has been represented by me. You have sued Donald Trump for fraud. I know you don’t like it. But it is a fact, and it is part of a campaign.”

And that’s when he told her, “Ultimately, this is what we do in the big leagues.”

For much of the rest of the debate, the four Republicans sought to boast their conservative credentials, while Torrens offered mostly dramatically different responses, though on a couple of occasions, notably on the inner workings of the attorney general’s office and its use of outside counsel on cases, he agreed with some of the Republicans.

Among the most telling rounds of responses came when the five candidates were asked if they could imagine a scenario in which they would refuse to defend a state law.

The question raised issues of whether, as attorney general of Florida, how they would respond if they were called to enforce a law they objected to ethically or morally, when they had taken an attorney general oath to defend the laws of the state.

“I would frankly have to resign,” Spano offered. “I’m a big believer in natural law. And so I do believe there is a fundamental connection between law and some sense or notion of morality…. However, if there were an issue like that, that would be my approach.”

Fant said simply “No there’s not,” such a scenario in which he would not defend the state law.

White, who earlier argued that the attorney general should push back against what he called excesses of “the administrative state,” or should help Trump fight against “the deep state” at the federal level, allowed that there might be situations where the “administrative state” pushes a law too far.

“My client as attorney general isn’t the regulator. My client as attorney general is the people,” White said.

Moody, the former judge, declared that “As the chief legal officer, if I take that oath and the Legislature passes that law, I will go into court and do my job that the voters gave me to do. And if there is authority, and we all know as legal officers, if there is authority that I believe works against my argument I would have the duty to present that to the court. I would do my job.”

Torrens took a more activist role, saying “I could see a situation where the Legislature passes a law trampling on people’s constitutional rights,” particularly involving minority rights. “I feel if it is my independent determination that the law did in fact trample on people’s constitutional rights then I can see a situation where I would decline to enforce it.”

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Jay Fant presses Senate on sanctuary cities legislation ahead of bill’s first committee hearing

On Tuesday afternoon, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee will be the first Senate panel to mull the sanctuary cities ban bill (HB 9) that passed the House already.

And one of the House co-sponsors of that measure — Jacksonville Republican Jay Fant, a candidate for Attorney General — sent an email to supporters last night, urging them to sign a petition of support for the ban, and to contact senators on Judiciary to make their feelings known.

“Sanctuary cities are home to illegal immigrants and are extremely dangerous. We need all the supporters we can get to sign our petition and keep our state, and our country, safe,” Fant writes in the email.

Fant also offers a 30-second video in the email that he released for his AG campaign.

“The difference between immigration and illegal immigration is that illegal immigration is illegal,” Fant asserts. “Elected officials who prop up this paradigm of illegal immigration need to be prosecuted. They’re breaking the law.”

Fant is the second statewide politician to release a video this week inveighing against sanctuary jurisdictions.

The political committee of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, widely expected to run for Governor once the Legislative Session wraps, spent $100,000 on an ad buy warning against the dangers of sanctuary cities.

Some might say these are quixotic positions, as there are no sanctuary jurisdictions in Florida.

However, certain Democratic mayors, such as St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman and Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum, have indicated conceptual support for the sanctuary concept.

For Republican politicians attempting to build name identification with the kinds of super voters who turn out for and decide GOP primaries, taking a strong stance on the sanctuary city issue is essential, as Corcoran and Fant clearly believe.

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