As the Legislature considers a congressional map drawn up by Gov. Ron DeSantis that could face court challenges, Democrat Aramis Ayala is accusing Attorney General Ashley Moody of abdicating her legal oversight role.
Ayala is a former State Attorney from Orlando who wants to take Moody’s job in the General Election. Ayala contends that in the most controversial of government actions over the past couple of years, Floridians have lacked an Attorney General’s voice to weigh in on matters that become legal battles.
Now, Ayala is turning her umbrage toward the highly unusual course that Florida’s congressional redistricting process has taken, together with the widespread speculation it will end up in court, with either the Florida Supreme Court or federal courts — or both — trying to sort out Florida’s congressional districts, as happened in the last federal reapportionment.
“The Attorney General cannot stand quiet while the Legislature has abdicated its responsibility,” she said, referring to the Legislature’s deferment to DeSantis to provide a map. “So yes, you are dealing with separation of powers.”
“Not only does the Attorney General have the right to institute proceedings, she has a duty to do that,” Ayala said.
Moody’s re-election campaign did not respond late last week to Ayala’s comments.
Ayala said the Attorney General should have issued at least an advisory opinion. Ayala also said she would have declined to defend any lawsuits that come from approval of the map, because her advisory opinion would find the process violated Florida’s Constitution.
“If you put that out front from the very beginning, No. 1, there is an advisory opinion that says, ‘This map is unconstitutional,’ that says, ‘This behavior is a violation of the separation of powers. This behavior violates the Fair Districts amendment in our constitution.’ And as a result of these violations, I, as Attorney General, will decline to defend this behavior.”
Ayala was herself a highly controversial State Attorney during her term from 2017-20, and her battles with then-Gov. Rick Scott drew national attention and attracted widespread criticism.
Now, after an aborted run for Congress, Ayala is going for Moody’s job. So are Democratic lawyers Daniel Uhlfelder of Santa Rosa Beach and Jim Lewis of Fort Lauderdale, and the Aug. 23 Democratic Primary Election will sort out the Democratic nominee.
Ayala began her Attorney General campaign in March charging that Moody, who is completing her first term and seeking a second in November, was a no-show as the Legislature considered numerous controversial bills likely to get challenged in court — and some that have, such as last year’s big voting bill gutted by a judge last month.
“She has been all too silent and not used her power to represent the people, but instead has used her position to become the Governor’s attorney,” Ayala charged.
“And that to me is extremely appalling because the Attorney General is not the attorney for the Governor. She is the people’s attorney. She may be legal advisor to many,” she added, “but as the people’s attorney, her job is to protect the people against unconstitutional issues and bills.”