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Dem AG Candidates Joust Over Debates

July 26, 2010 - 6:00pm

With less than a month until the primary election Aug. 24, Greenacres' Sen. Dave Aronberg shot down the idea of holding 11 debates with Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, his rival for the Democratic attorney general nomination.

Last week, Christian Ulvert, Gelbers campaign manager, sent a letter to the Aronberg campaign proposing more debates.

This is an important election cycle for Democrats and all Floridians, wrote Ulvert. The historic nature of having every seat on the Florida Cabinet wide open requires us to ensure Floridians have an opportunity to learn firsthand from the candidates themselves.

Since both our campaigns will have limited resources and will be unable to saturate the airwaves like other statewide candidates, I suggest that Sen. Dave Aronberg joins Sen. Dan Gelber in hosting a debate in each of Floridas 11 media markets, continued Ulvert. This will ensure that Floridians in every part of the state have an opportunity to learn about each of the Democratic AG candidates.

Aronberg replied to Ulverts proposal in an e-mail sent out to Gelber late Monday.

I believed that our campaigns were engaged in honest discussion about the debate process, so I was a bit surprised by the e-mail you sent to us and the press corps calling for 11 debates in the final month of the campaign a number you know is unrealistic and smacks of a political stunt, wrote Aronberg.

Let me be clear, we should have debates before the Aug. 24 primary, but let's start this discussion on a reasonable timetable given the normal hectic pace of the closing weeks of a statewide campaign, he continued.

Besides focusing on the debates, Aronberg focused on the oil spill in the Gulf. He had attacked Gelber for not resigning from Akerman Senterfitt in a timely fashion, as the firm is handling some of BPs legal affairs resulting from the oil spill. Aronberg has said that Gelbers former position at Akerman Senterfitt could possibly force him to recuse himself if he is elected attorney general and deals with claims and other matters arising from the oil spill.

Having just spent the end of last week in Pensacola, I continue to hear stories of the devastation and disruption of lives due to the BP oil catastrophe, wrote Aronberg. The next attorney general will probably spend the better part of this decade involved in litigation of the state vs. BP, Halliburton and other parties who might share liability for this disaster.Therefore, as we work together to agree on our debate schedule, I want to insist that at least one of the debates be held there so the citizens of that region can hear our plans for fighting for them as their attorney general.

Aronberg also wrote that, since both candidates are from the southeastern part of the state, they should host a debate in either Tampa or Orlando where they are not as well-known.

Both candidates have posted impressive fund-raising numbers in the campaign. As of July 16, the end of the latest fund-raising quarter, Aronberg had raised $1.18 million with just under $200,000 through in-kind donations. Gelber had raised more $1.05 million with more than $218,000 through in-kind donations. Aronberg had spent more than $520,000 of his war chest while Gelber spent more than $387,000 of his funds.

In the most recent quarter, Aronberg had a solid advantage over Gelber in terms of cash raised -- almost $100,000.

Noting this, Aronberg sent out an e-mail to his supporters on Tuesday.

All the fund-raising numbers are now in, and I am so pleased to report that you again made us the clear financial front-runner in this AG race, wrote Aronberg who noted that he out-raised Gelber in four of the last five quarters.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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