The Republican race for Attorney General is now a two-candidate affair.
State Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville is bowing out and applying to be commissioner of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR).
Commissioner Drew Breakspear is resigning effective June 30, after CFO Jimmy Patronis told him he “no longer ha(d) confidence” in Breakspear’s ability to lead the office, which acts as the state’s watchdog for the financial industry.
Fant explained Tuesday the role would be a solid fit for his banking experience — including a high-profile loss.
“After years of work in the private sector,” Fant said, “I first decided to pursue elected office because I experienced first hand what wayward government policy does to business.”
He added: “I was running a small community bank during the Great Recession and Florida real estate crisis. Our company, like all banks and financial firms, suffered tremendously. The federal government intervened by passing a massive bank bailout that helped the largest banks and left the small community banks out in the cold. 64 banks in Florida alone, including ours, went out of business. Wall Street won. Main Street lost.”
“Businesses in Florida must operate on a level playing field, and our willingness to fight for that is vital to the success of free enterprise,” Fant said. “These beliefs led me to run for the Florida House, and then last year to run for Attorney General. The recent opening for Commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, however, is the position most in line with my experience in banking, law and policymaking; I will seek that appointment.
“My passion is to see that limited government be fair for all Floridians.”
For Fant, who’s been struggling in the Attorney General’s race, this may be the closest he gets to a Cabinet position.
The OFR reports to the Financial Services Commission, which is made up of the Governor and Cabinet: Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Agriculture Commissioner.
State law says they can hire or fire the OFR’s head “by a majority vote consisting of at least three affirmative votes, with both the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer on the prevailing side.” Patronis is a friend and political ally of Gov. Rick Scott.
Fant was on Scott’s side last year, when he voted against a bill backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran that sought to abolish Scott’s favored Enterprise Florida economic development organization.
Fant said then that he doesn’t “like going against leadership on a vote, and I stick with them on just about everything, but this just isn’t one of those things.”
And Scott later had Fant’s back at an Enterprise Florida meeting later that year.
“There are not a lot of people in the Legislature that stood up for us and talked vocally about their support of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida,” Scott said. “Jay Fant was one of the few, and I want to thank Jay for doing that, and I wish all luck in your next endeavor.”
During a gaggle, Scott then amplified his comments, calling Fant a “leader.”
Remaining in the AG race are Ashley Moody, a former Circuit Court judge, and Frank White, a House colleague of Fant.
If Fant were to endorse, it likely wouldn’t be Moody, given the heated exchanges between the two during the primary.
Among White’s backers is Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry; the move could strengthen an important relationship locally for Fant, who left a safe House seat to pursue the AG job.