Although Hillsborough County-based attorney Ryan Torrens is a heavy underdog in the race for Florida Attorney General against his opponent Sean Shaw, he’s not going down without a fight.
Torrens filed suit this week against his opponent. Shaw had already filed a lawsuit against Torrens. The primary is two weeks away, so it’s unclear how the legal matters will affect things.
Shaw filed a lawsuit last month in Leon County court calling for a judge to toss Torrens from the August 28 ballot, claiming that his opponent accepted an illegal campaign contribution to cover his qualifying fee to enter the contest.
Specifically, Shaw alleges that the $4,000 campaign contribution that Torrens received from Francesca Yabraian helped pay his qualifying fee to enter the race. That’s $1,000 more than the maximum an individual is allowed to give in a race in Florida.
But in his recently filed lawsuit, Torrens counters that Yabraian is in fact his wife, and that her $4,000 check was drawn on a joint account for the married couple, and thus was a loan and not a campaign contribution. Florida law provides that candidates can loan unlimited amounts of their own money to their campaigns.
Torrens now charges in his suit that when Shaw raised the claim, he “falsely and frivolously” challenged the integrity of Torrens and his wife.
“In his initial haste to file his frivolous lawsuit, my opponent apparently didn’t realize at the time that Francesca is my wife,” Torrens said in a statement. “And he certainly didn’t take the time to learn that the check his lawsuit focused upon was drawn on an account that is maintained in both our names. If he had cared enough to simply ask me about it, as one Democrat ought to do with another out of a basic sense of decency and fairness, I would have of course informed him of that crucial fact.”
The Shaw campaign said they would offer no response to the lawsuit.
Shaw – currently a legislator from Tampa is dominating the race in terms of fundraising, with more than $1.1 million in his campaign and political committee account. Torrens has actually spent several thousand dollars more than he’s raised, according to the most recent campaign records.
With such dominance, Shaw was asked at a press conference in Tallahassee last week why he felt the need to try throw his opponent off the ballot? “We took that action because I’m going to hold everyone accountable, including my primary opponent,” he said.
The winner in the primary election will take on whichever Republican wins their Aug. 28 GOP primary – former Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody or Pensacola state Rep. Frank White.