Aided by his cabinet and Republicans in the legislature, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to inch closer to an authoritarian ruler on American soil. And while DeSantis governs as if he is the final arbiter of every aspect of daily life, some people are fighting to pull Florida back from the brink.
As Floridians head to the polls on Tuesday, Aug. 23, the attorney general is a position that should be front of mind. Enter Aramis Ayala, Democratic candidate for Florida Attorney General and the former Orange-Osceola state attorney. Ayala has used her campaign as almost a shadow cabinet, informing the public about what legally should be happening and pointing to better ways the state could serve the people.
Speaking with NewsOne, Ayala stressed the importance of having a Florida attorney general who will put the people first. She said the attorney general isn’t the governor’s personal lawyer and shouldn’t go along with everything he does.
“The Attorney General is an independent actor,” Ayala said. “When we look at what the attorney general should be doing and how she should be acting, it is not to cosign the governor. It is to speak for the people.”
She explained that the attorney general is a part of the Florida Cabinet, a body that serves as a check on the governor.
“The people created the Florida cabinet,” Ayala explained. “And this is the cabinet to oversee multiple agencies within the state so that the governor isn’t just lording over all of them.”
She said the cabinet could move forward with calling meetings to take a vote on important issues, even when the government refuses to engage with established processes.
“As the attorney general, there are options for us to lead the cabinet when the governor fails to act,” Aramis said. “I will be ready to take that stand when the governor fails to act.”
When news broke about DeSantis suspending a Florida prosecutor for expressing an opinion about not pursuing abortion-related prosecutions, it became clear the governor was moving closer to authoritarianism by reaching in and removing officials, not for actual wrongdoing but because he didn’t like what they said. So much for protecting freedom.
“It’s a power grab,” Aramis said bluntly. “It’s not only appalling and dangerous. It actually undermines the voters in Hillsborough County.”
Aramis reiterated that it’s not an issue of Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew Warren not prosecuting a specific case. He simply expressed his opinion about the law. A self-proclaimed criminal justice reformer, Warren and his lawyers argue the governor overstepped in removing him for what amounted to nothing more than free speech.
“The facts show that it is exactly voter suppression,” she said of DeSantis’ actions. “You are stealing the people’s votes. You are injecting your personal will, not the will of the people, in a manner that is acting like a dictator.”
And while DeSantis is fixated on alleged virtually nonexistent fraud with his new election crimes unit, he has effectively stolen an elected position from the voters in Hillsborough County who elected Warren. According to Ballotpedia, he beat his opponent by approximately 47,000 votes.
During her interview with NewsOne, Aramis also took aim at the current attorney general Ashley Moody, who previously supported a Texas lawsuit frivolously challenging 2020 election results. Republican efforts to undermine the 2020 election results in part led to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“Attorneys are supposed to look at the evidence, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there was anything corrupt, problematic or illegal about President Biden’s election,” Ayala explained. “For her to join on to that is perpetuating the political agenda of those she sides with versus the rights of the people she’s supposed to work for.”
These moments prove that the states need strong fighters willing to firmly challenge false narratives and help the public understand the stakes and how things work. From ensuring Florida residents are fairly represented through the redistricting process to challenging unconstitutional laws that potentially discriminate against Florida residents, the next attorney general must focus on protecting the rights and freedoms of Floridians not the governor’s ego.
“The people of the state of Florida need someone who’s experienced and understands what it feels like to take on the status quo,” Aramis said. “The people of the state of Florida run the state of Florida. And they need an attorney general who will stand up and be the legal voice that supports their right to protect their state. To protect it from fascism, to protect it from a dictator, to protect it from autocracy. But certainly to promote it as the democracy that it is.