Democratic candidate for Attorney General Ryan Torrens has countersued primary opponent Sean Shaw for libel, saying Shaw injured his “reputation in the legal profession and as a candidate for public office.”
Shaw sued first last month to have Torrens kicked off the ballot, alleging the Tampa lawyer only qualified to run because of an “illegal campaign contribution” to pay the qualifying fee. Torrens later said it was a self-loan — his wife had written the check from their joint account.
“By erroneously raising these false claims (in his lawsuit), my opponent falsely and frivolously challenged my integrity as a professional and as someone aspiring to public office, and that of my wife,” Torrens said in a Wednesday statement.
“In addition, I have exercised my right to request a jury trial on our libel claim for damages against my primary opponent.”
Torrens, a consumer-rights attorney in Tampa, called Shaw’s lawsuit “frivolous,” noting Florida courts have never removed a candidate from the ballot for the reasons Shaw cited in his complaint.
The suit is “a sad attempt to confuse voters during a primary election after absentee ballots have already been sent out,” Torrens said.
A Shaw campaign spokesman said the candidate had “no comment” on Torrens’ countersuit.
Torrens’ campaign treasurer Jessica Vasconez has acknowledged that the campaign received a $4,000 contribution from Francesca Yabraian, Torrens’ wife. The maximum permitted for a statewide candidate is $3,000.
“The check … was drawn on our joint account,” Torrens said previously. “(T)his was a case in which my money was being transferred to my campaign, and as all candidates know, there is no limit on the amount a candidate is allowed to spend on his or her own campaign.”
On Wednesday, he added: “With his years of public service, I really expected better” of Shaw, formerly the state’s insurance consumer advocate and now a state representative from Tampa.
“If he wants to keep wasting money in the courts on frivolous cases, like Attorney General Pam Bondi has done, then that’s his decision. I will continue to campaign across the state and talk about the issues Floridians are worried about.
“It’s a shame as this suit will only tear down this critical election season.”