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Rick Scott should call Richard Doran before appointing next AG

in Statewide by

There seems little doubt that within the next few days Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will add the word “former” in front of that title. The all-but-certain appointment to join the staff of President-elect Donald Trump will likely be leaked to the media, then, no doubt, made official via Twitter.

While we wait, there are administrative matters requiring attention. Among the most important for the Office of the Attorney General is to be prepared for the re-stoking of the Trump Foundation donation to Bondi’s re-election campaign.

The issue is bogus, but Bondi and her successor will again be answering those questions.

Speaking of her successor, the identity of that person has already drawn significant speculation within the political circles. Several names are tossed around, including Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz of Miami also appears on several lists.

Two factors go into appointing the next Attorney General. Competency and the ability to win the election in 2018, hopefully in that order, are paramount.

I have a suggestion for Governor Rick Scott as he contemplates his most important appointment. He should consult with Richard Doran.

While Doran’s name would not ring a bell with most around Florida, those within the circles of state government know him well. For what is about to happen, he is the only Floridian who has “been there and done that.”

While there are some differences in the circumstances, Doran, a Republican, was appointed Attorney General on November 5, 2002, by then-Gov. Jeb Bush when Bob Butterworth resigned to seek election to the state Senate.

Doran spent 19 years in the Attorney General’s office. In addition to leading the office for a brief time, he also knows what it takes for it to be successful from the other side.

As a shareholder in the prestigious Tallahassee law firm of Ausley McMullen, he is content doing what he is doing. But, he would be an invaluable adviser to the governor.

Doran believes the governor has a good process in place to make a good selection. He speaks of the current situation involving Bondi as “if” she joins Team Trump, not “when.”

“Because one of the roles of the governor is to evaluate attorneys for judgeships, Gov. Scott and his staff have had the opportunity to evaluate a number of very fine attorneys over the past several years,” Doran said. “To me, the process of selecting a new attorney general would be similar.”

Precious few of those attorneys would have the experience of the mission and inner workings of what amounts to one of Florida’s largest law firms. While others will advise Scott on issues of electability for 2018, Doran can offer his advice on running the ship.

While there are similarities between his situation and the one about to develop in Florida, he recognizes that his two-month stint as Attorney General is different from someone who will serve for two years.

“This would be uncharted territory for a Florida governor,” he said. “I would look for him to identify individuals of the highest integrity, commitment to public service, as well as an understanding and respect of the notion of separation of powers and an ability to run a large organization.”

That sounds like someone who is not thinking much about 2018. Which is exactly why the governor needs to talk to him.

Among the many possibilities out there, there will be a few who can both handle the legal responsibilities as well as possess the necessary political skills to be successful. Butterworth, with whom Doran served, and Charlie Crist, with whom I spent four years in the Attorney General’s office, are perfect examples.

Gov. Scott, you and the people of Florida would be well served by making that call.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at [email protected]

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