Ben Cannatti and Ford O'Connell

The concept of Federalism and the relationship between citizens, the states and the federal government has moved from wonkish policy debates to a battle touching all Americans in the ongoing court cases over health care mandates, immigration enforcement, environmental restrictions, financial market regulation and other issues. As the chief legal officers in their respective states, Attorneys General, in the words of the National Association of Attorneys General, often “occupy the intersection of law and public policy, dealing” with a multitude of issues.

If the Attorneys General chose not to defend the embattled principles of Federalism, the citizens of America will stand naked against the power of the federal government. In two very different, but influential states, voters have a very clear opportunity to elect candidates who are ready to stand up and fight these battles for the rule of law and limited federal government. Florida and California represent opportunities, one a “hold” and one a “pick-up” for the GOP during a time when principled conservative leadership matters most.

In Florida, former Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi, a Republican, is running to continue the fight that current AG Bill McCollum has waged against the federal government’s over-reach. She draws a sharp contrast against the Democratic opponent, Dan Gelber: “Bondi has pledged to continue Attorney General Bill McCollum’s constitutional challenge of the new health-care laws while Gelber has vowed to pull the plug on the lawsuit,” reports the Sunshine State News.

During the campaign, Bondi has taken “direct aim at Obamacare” according to The Ledger by “asking hospital administrators and physicians to provide her with some insight on how the new federal health care law might impact” the way they practice medicine. In addition, recent support from law enforcement, the Florida Right to Life, NFIB and other groups along with relentless grassroots campaigning have given Bondi a significant boost. A recent survey from the Florida Chamber of Commerce gave her a 12-point lead.

Across the country in California, Republican Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has a reputation as a strong prosecutor with a tough-on-crime, hold-the-line record. Cooley’s Democratic opponent is San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, whose 2003 campaign featured strong opposition to the death penalty, which played well in San Francisco, but is less palatable in the rest of the state. Even the Los Angeles Times is noticing that Harris is more than a bit left of center: “As the liberal city's district attorney campaigns against L.A.'s Steve Cooley for state attorney general, her opposition to the death penalty and stances on other issues could work against her.”

In contrast, The Associated Press describes Cooley as having “built his career as a corruption fighter and prosecutor in high-profile cases, including those involving fugitive film director Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson's doctor.” Real Clear Politics columnist Debra Saunders describes the efforts made to get Cooley into the race, writing, “‘He was drafted by law enforcement and others who came to him repeatedly, and he turned them down,’ Cooley consultant Kevin Spillane told me. ‘The job was too important to let (Harris) take over the position.’ And why did these gray beards push Cooley to run? Simple. Unlike Harris, Cooley is competent.”

The Field Poll released in late September shows Cooley in the lead according to the San Francisco Chronicle, but within the margin of error, so the race is effectively a dead heat. Interpreting the poll results, Field’s Mark DiCamillo gives the advantage to Cooley, because “Cooley is not viewed as negatively by Democrats as Harris is by likely GOP voters.” Given the Democrats voter registration advantage in California, Cooley’s broader appeal could be the deciding factor in this race.

With just over three weeks to go until Election Day, both Bondi and Cooley are on solid ground to take these two offices for Republicans. To learn more about Pam Bondi’s bid in Florida, visit pambondi.com/ or go to stevecooley.com to learn more about Steve Cooley’s candidacy in California.


Ben Cannatti and Ford O'Connell

Ben Cannatti is Political Director of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Ford O'Connell is the co-founder of ProjectVirginia.