Dan Gelber speaks with WMNF on current political climate
In recent years the office of the state attorney general has become highly political. Current attorney general Bill McCollum is leading a multi-state lawsuit against the federal health care overhaul, and has taken a stand on issues like immigration. Last Week, WMNFâ€™s Kate Bradshaw spoke with Democratic State Senator and Attorney General candidate Dan Gelber, who says political grandstanding can shift vital resources away from things like fighting fraud and pill mills.
Gelber, a South Florida Democrat, is running against Republican Pam Bondi and independent Jim Lewis in the attorney generalâ€™s race. Bondi was not available for an interview today, but we hope to speak with her before the election.
Can you talk a little bit about why you do not support current Attorney General Bill McCollum's lawsuit against the federal government over health care reform?
"Yeah, I think he sold a bill of goods like a lot of people did to the public. I think the health care plan needs to be fixed and it ought to be fixed in the legislative process, and I think it will be. I think this lawsuit was born out of politics, was born out of, actually, his primary. And there's about, people don't realize, there's about half a dozen of them across the country on the same issue. A couple of them have already been thrown out on the merits. Ours has twenty other parties to it and four of the six counts have already been thrown out and so this thing is going to percolate for years and the truth of the matter is we do need to reform our health care system so let the Congress do their job, don't use the Attorney General's office as a political game. I want my people focused on things like investment fraud, things like pill mills, things like Medicaid fraud, things like gangs. I want every person I have every day waking up and thinking how they can keep a family secure, how they can protect the rights of a senior, how they can do something to reckon with a child predator that needs to be..whatever we need done to protect people, that's what I want my people focused on. I don't want them doing this lawsuit which likely is not going to do anything and frankly isn't going to be doing anything for years and by the way, whether Florida is a party to it or not, it's going to continue anyway because there are nineteen other states involved anyway. So why put a half a dozen people on this, why spend the resources and attention of an office which ought to be focused on making people safe."
If you're elected, can you talk a little bit about the public sentiment this year. What are your thoughts on the Tea Party, and also are there any aspects of your platform that might appeal to Tea Partiers?
"Yeah, I think that...well, first of all, there's a lot angry people out there in the electorate nationally and a lot of that I think is coming from the economy. When you get twelve per cent unemployment people are upset because you're either unemployed or you're worried about your job or you know somebody who's lost their job and you're angry. But the truth is, in Florida, only one party's been in charge for the last twelve years so the anger shouldn't be directed at Democrats, I'm not a US Congressman, I'm a member of the minority party in the legislature right now, I was a federal prosecutor and for a while I worked for US Senator Sam Nunn doing counter-terrorism investigations but after that I've been in the minority party, so it's hard to blame the minority party for what the majority has done. So if the Tea Party in Florida is mad they ought to be mad at the folks in power who have been totally co-opted by special interests and what they should like about my position is this; I was a corruption prosecutor and I intend to bring a bat to Tallahassee. And I think it needs it. It is thoroughly co-opted by the largest, most powerful special interests in the state and even my opponent in this race has done something I was surprised at. Right out of the bat she went to the insurance companies and told them she wanted all of their support, I wouldn't even interview with them. And they gave her her support and she's now called for the deregulation of insurance. And if you know what that means, what that means is right now we can regulate insurance rates, they can't charge 'excessive rates,' well if we deregulate it so they can charge whatever rates they want, practically every Floridian will likely get a rate increase. And, that's what the insurance companies want, and that's what my opponent supports. And I don't know why Ms. Bondi thinks that's good for people and I don't know why you'd want an Attorney General who thinks it's more important to be on the side of insurance companies than on people, than on the side of people, but that's a big difference. I think if the Tea Party is mad at one thing, they seem to be mad at government being corrupted by special interests and I think my opponent has walked right into it and said "I need your money and I'll be with you" and she's already started it with the deregulation of insurance, that's exactly what got us into this mess."
Why do you think Pam Bondi didn't appear with Sarah Palin at Saturday's GOP victory rally in Orlando?
"Cause I think she's a politician. And politicians do what they think they need to do at the right time. You don't have to be elected to be a politician. There are people who...you know, she doesn't like to answer questions about her positions. She doesn't want to appear in debates. She doesn't want to give an answer unless she thinks it's in her best interests, she'll answer about the health care lawsuit and her position on that but she won't answer on issues of deregulation or on other issues where she obviously and uh...so I think what she's doing is that she used support of Ms. Palin to get her out of her primary and was very proud of it, there were robocalls done, it's probably the reason she's the nominee, but now that she's trying to tell other voters who might not think that's such a great thing she's distancing herself, which is the mark of a really good politician the ability to pivot, not withstanding ideology or belief."
Pam Bondi has said that she can bring jobs to Florida. That doesn't seem to really be in the purview of the Attorney General, from my understanding. How, if at all, can one running for Attorney General possibly argue that they can bring jobs?
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"No, it's silly, what she says. And in fact, out of..you know, overwhelmingly every single newspaper in the state of Florida, nearly every single newspaper has endorsed me. I think I've got a dozen newspapers, big ones, small ones, moderate, conservative, all over the state. From Pensacola and Palatka down to Miami and Ft Lauderdale and Orlando and Naples, they've all endorsed me and they've said, many of them have said that she's making this about things that have nothing to do with the office she's running for. Because if she compares her credentials to mine she falls far short. And I think that's unfortunate or maybe that's what she sees as her path to victory is to talk about things that she doesn't have anything to do with or that don't matter. The health care lawsuit's a good example. Whether we're in it or not it'll continue. Jobs is not something you can change as the Attorney General unless you're creating more corrections officers by putting more people in jail but I don't think that's what she means, I think she's just telling people what she thinks they want to hear."