Earlier this month, Republican State Rep. Frank White, lead attorney for an auto dealership group, jumped into the race to be Florida’s Attorney General.
The field already included the Pensacola Republican’s House colleague, Jay Fant of Jacksonville, and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody.
Both Fant and Moody have resources. Moody has raised over a million dollars and Fant has poured $750,000 into his own campaign, along with raising just over $200,000.
And both have endorsements: Fant from a dozen or so House Republican, and Moody from a lot of law enforcement professionals, current Attorney General Pam Bondi, and the leading Panhandle conservative, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Yet White, a first-term legislator, saw an opening — and took it — he told us last week in Jacksonville.
“I’m in the race to make a difference. I think there’s room in the race for a proven conservative,” White said, “and my track record in fifteen years of studying and practicing law and business and private practice, and my year in the Legislature shows I’m a proven conservative, someone who is ready day one to manage the largest law firm in the state.”
White got into “public service two years ago to make a difference,” he said, and the attorney general’s race is the next step, with his “skill set and passion” matching what the position entails.
White didn’t want to assess Fant or Moody at first, saying that his “background in business and law speaks for itself.”
However, he loosened up soon enough and gave some insight into where the campaign will go.
“Voters will look at all of our records over times, scrutinize our past, and see who can credibly make the case that they share the primary voters’ conservative values,” White said. “I think I’m that candidate.”
“My opponent has been in the race for many months and has had a lot of time before I was even considering it to chase endorsements around the state,” White said. “We already have our share in a short time, and I’m confident we’ll have many more as time goes on.”
Money was the next subject — specifically, White’s plan to compete with two candidates with significant war chests already.
White will make a “personal investment” into the race “to kickstart the campaign and make up for the time we’ve lost,” he said, though he didn’t say how big that would be.
From there, the legacy of Pam Bondi — the incumbent Attorney General who backs Moody, even while Fant kicked off his own campaign by vowing to carry on her legacy.
Like his opponents, White celebrates what Bondi has done.
“She’s done a good job,” White said, specifically lauding her work on pill mills as “having saved lives.”
White went on to say, regarding the opioid crisis, that the “attorney general absolutely has a role in fighting” it.
“The most important component is communication across levels of law enforcement and health care providers,” White said, noting that getting out of traditional “silos” is key to ensuring that happens.
Meanwhile, “if laws were broken” by pharmaceutical companies, “it’s the attorney general’s obligation to pursue justice for Florida’s families and seniors, protecting them from bad actors in the marketplace.”
White, as is the case with many Federalist Society conservative attorneys, is a strong advocate of the rule of law.
“To me,” White said, “the rule of law and our Constitution are the obvious foundational principles of our society. Society is a fragile construct … and it needs to be fought for and defended when forces that might undermine it appear.”
Activist judges “who view their role as super-legislators, who choose to make law from the bench” nettle White, specifically on 2nd Amendment issues such as the Stand Your Ground law.
“The 2nd Amendment is non-negotiable,” White said, adding that restraint of its rights must be “narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling interest” of government.
The conversation moved from firearms to cannabis — specifically, medical marijuana.
Though there have been complaints of the slow processing of patients in the state’s expanded medical marijuana program, White doesn’t see evidence that the attorney general needs to intercede — at least, at this point.
“Floridians believe medical marijuana has a role to play in compassionate care. The Legislature passed a law implementing voters’ intent last summer,” White said.
“As state agencies apply that law, the attorney general should be engaged if they see state agencies or private entities breaking that law,” White added.
White’s interpretation of voter intent does not, however, encompass smokeable marijuana — a point of contention among many activists in the John Morgan camp.
“The law enforcement community clearly spoke and had a problem with smokeable marijuana,” White said, adding that “voters in the amendment also clearly, in my view, were voting in support of medical marijuana as part of compassionate care.”
“Medicine,” White said, “means being able to control dosage. From testimony in committees, it was clear to me as a legislator that you cannot control dosage with smokeable marijuana.”
“You can with vaping. To a lesser degree, with edibles. And certainly can with pill form. I was proud of our law. I think it implemented voter intent,” White added.