A Conversation with Rep. Jay Fant, Candidate for Florida Attorney General


>> Hello and welcome again to this edition of Capital Dateline I'm your host, Brad Swanson

We are coming to you once again just a few blocks from Florida's Capitol at the headquarters of the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association We are joined today by Representative Jay Fant, candidate for Attorney General for the State of Florida Jay, welcome >> Brad, how are you? >> Alright so you're in this race, you've been running for a while now but our viewers haven't necessarily heard your story Before we get into kind of the nitty gritty, tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got into politics

>> Good question, Brad I've only been in politics for a little over four years In 2013, as a man in my mid 40s, I thought maybe there's more I can do and you could join United Way, you can get involved in the schools, but there was an open House seat, so remembering our civics lessons from our youth, I threw my hat in the ring and I did it for this reason: On the heels of the Obama administration, I just thought I needed to do something the disregard for our constitution, how Florida is affected by that, I thought I'd like to be in the room, because if this keeps going, Florida will lose its ability to make our own decisions, so I thought I'd get involved, and I ran and won by a large, large margin in 2014I think two votes >> Two votes? I mean that's enormous Typical Florida politics, a few recounts involved Okay, and you're from the Jacksonville area right? So when you're not doing politics, what is your day job? >> Fiduciary services, I'm a lawyer, but I'm really a businessman who is a lawyer

I come from community banking, and trust work is an extension of what I do there >> Excellent So now you're in the big statewide Attorney General's race I mean, this is running across Florida – the panhandle is as different from Miami as you can imagine Why did you get into that race? I mean, that race specifically

>> I have a heart for defending people from the excesses of the government That's really what the Constitution is designed to do That's why it was created The distrust of government in general In Florida, the states, all the states are sovereign and we have to remember that, and when I go around the state, I like to remind people that that document, our Constitution, isn't something you just read in history books

It's designed to protect you today So if a wrongheaded government decision happens in your town and says something like you can't say that or you can't do that, or your 2nd Amendment rights feel threatened, that's where a chief legal officer needs to step in So as Attorney General, potentially that's what intrigues me about that job, to offer their services to the citizens, to be their man to stand between them and when government just goes too far >> I mean, there are also cases that you have to file on behalf of the State of Florida as well against other states and Georgia and water issues and all sorts of things and the federal government >> We see many examples of federal government overstepping its bounds, violating the federalist construct of our government, and that's where the state gets to file action against the federal government

>> Those are always exciting cases for those of us that love looking at the intricacies of the relationship between the federal government and the states Okay, so let's into some of those top issues You've been out on the trail talking about them, so I'm gonna kind of nail down a few of these one by one So you mentioned the Constitution – the 1st and 2nd Amendment are big What are you hoping to achieve, what do you see there as kind of your top reason to defend those? >> When you're out around the state or even here in Leon County talking with people, the reservations people have are, what will the government do against my right to say what I want or to bear arms

I'll give a quick illustration on this In Florida we're allowed to carry weapons in a concealed way If your weapon is inadvertently seen – you bend over and your jacket lifts up – technically, historically, that's been used as a violation to be subject to arrest Now that's a bit of a reach against people who are law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves If people are out there, looking to say "Ah ha! I saw a glimpse of your sidearm!" then all of a sudden that 2nd Amendment needs to come into play, and we need to tell the government if you're going after, if there's a local officer going after law-abiding citizens, somebody needs to step in and defend that citizen from that overzealous officer

So that's an example of those types of things That's what people talk about out there They talk about watching the news all the time and feeling like their point of view can't be heard anymore People are concerned about their 1st Amendment right to say what they want Very top of mind these days

>> For sure, for sure So we're gonna move from the Constitution to a crisis of today We have the opioid crisis It's national in scope It definitely was the center focus of the presidential election on many terms

How are you facing this issue, and what do you hope to achieve if and when you become Attorney General? >> Brad, as serious as you may believe the opioid crisis is, it is far more serious, I think, than we can even reconcile As I go county to county, if affects small counties and big counties It affects people low on the socioeconomic scale, but also affects those at the private schools and the country clubs This vicious cycle of either opioid addiction or access to cheap heroin which is laced with these fatal qualities like Carfentanil It's taking addiction problems and turning them into fatalities for the entire range of the socioeconomic scale

We are overwhelmed by it This issue is not going away It's a top, top priority going into the next cabinet administration and one in which I'm taking very seriously >> I'm sure Florida is expending huge resources both on mitigation I know law enforcement now is carrying an anti-addiction pen to resuscitate people so it's a new day for sure in both enforcement and in treatment

So let's move on from the opioid addiction Let's talk about what the hurricanes have kind of reaped on Florida, right? So you get occasional bad actors Fraud is certainly one of the biggest jobs of the Attorney General Now let's talk about the hurricane-based fraud and what you see, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on fraud in general >> You're right about that

Fraud, Brad, is probably the largest role in the office, consumer protection against fraud, whether Medicare fraud or any type of fraud or unfair and deceptive trade practices are occurring around the state And when something terrible like Irma hits Florida, and it was bad I'm from Jacksonville It snuck up on us and whacked us I was calling people to stay in Jacksonville and they were calling me later and say you need to leave Jacksonville and we've had damage that's extensive

When that wholesale damage occurs across the state, Brad, unfortunately, the bad guys will come in and take advantage of it One quick example is when a vendor, a bad-minded vendor may come in and say, "I'll clean up your house very quickly Just sign away here I'll deal with your insurance company" Now there are good vendors and bad vendors

The bad ones will be in cahoots possibly with, also there are good lawyers and bad lawyers, the bad lawyers who will inflate, triple, quadruple the cost to fix things that don't need to be fixed or just increase those costs and that causes those insurance costs to go up which brings those premiums up >> Generically, we call that that assignment of benefits, and Florida already had a crisis going on before the hurricanes, but now you're seeing just probably extra traffic in that world >> I think this will be the instance that says we have no excuse for not addressing the abusive end of the assignment of benefit industry right now >> So the assignment of benefits, let's move from kind of that fraud issue That is a huge business issue across the State of Florida

You haven't been shy about expressing your opinions as it comes to you protecting and working on behalf of businesses across the State of Florida from a fairness standpoint, and what I'm really talking about is you stood up probably in a lonely-ish posture last session on behalf of economic development Tell us a little bit about that scenario, why you did it and how do you think that affects your view on the Attorney General's race going forward? >> Granted, economic development seems to have been out of vogue in recent times in the legislature, but, remember, I come from business, and economic development is not only the life blood of business, it's the life blood of communities Without new businesses coming in and new hirings coming in, you don't expand business, you don't increase the tax rolls, you don't increase incomes, the charities don't get funded, the churches don't get tithed, so it's of vital importance and we can't chill the effect of that across the state, so I felt incumbent to speak that very paradigm at a time where, as I said it was in vogue not to, but the Floridians elected me to come to the House and to vote and to speak to issues that are critical to our success We can't be the only state that doesn't want new businesses to expand here and so I spoke sincerely to that, and I continue to do so >> So let's talk a little bit about the state

So you've been traveling around the state in your candidate role >> It's a big state >> I imagined you've paid for many gallons of gas and burned some tire rubber Talk to us about what you see as kind of the differences possibly in what they need or hope out of the Attorney General from like a Miami to a rural Florida in Clewiston to kind of that family-friendly Orlando and just kind of march us northward or southward, whichever way you want to, and just walk us through what you're seeing on the campaign trail from Floridians >> Thank you

It is a big and diverse state, but that's the fun of it So if I'm in Miami-Dade getting through traffic, we talk about traffic in Miami-Dade participating in traffic in Miami-Dade

>> It's a sport >> It is a sport and you have to been good at it The locals will talk to you about fairness, and that often relates to threats of fraud in their industry We want to compete fairly We want to make sure that our port business we have fair competition and, as Attorney General, we look to you to ensure that's the case that we get a fair shake in the business cycle

Yesterday, for instance, I was in Lafayette County, much, much, much smaller People there care about many of the same things, but what is more emphasized are, I would say, the values of what we share as people Will our values be protected? Will we be able to say what we want to say, believe what we want to believe without being infringed upon? What's great about the Attorney General's role is you can have a hand in both With my business background, I have a natural intuition toward threatens the enterprise, how to expand the economy, but I also have a heart for families and the things that we hold dear and that's why this role is just so fascinating to me and why I spend so much time explaining to people why I seek that office >> Yeah, I think Attorney Generals past, not all of them, but a few of them have come into the office against Florida's business community, and perhaps that's an overstatement, but then you have other Attorney Generals that come in and understand that balance of, look, we need to protect Floridians but yet facilitate good commerce and good transactions

So as you move out of that role of the mechanics of the office, you're gonna sit on the Cabinet if you get elected Attorney General and those decisions are big and encompassing, and they really are about the entirety of the state and we saw this last Cabinet under Governor Scott, you know, not always agreeing on certain appointments How do you approach or how do you envision approaching your role on the Cabinet? >> Like I do now, which is that I have an independent voice that needs to reflect those who brought me into the office, and through a general election that means the entire state So I think sometimes in politics we think, well that politician belongs to another politician I've never liked that paradigm, as you probably know I think on the Cabinet is the very best place to show that we have a state that gives a strong Cabinet to very good Governors but a very strong Cabinet too, so that there is a diversity of opinion and wouldn't it be nice in our Cabinet to have a chief legal officer whose background is in economic expansion through business and has a heart for the Constitution and protecting Florida from the reach of the federal government

>> So, one of our final questions that we love to ask folks that come on our program, what shows, when you are not pressing yourself against the issues of the day and the State of Florida, what do you come home at the end of the day and turn on and watch to kind of decompress? What do you stream, what do you watch? >> Brad, remember I have four children at home, so it's not what I get to choose, it's what's on, so when the homework's done or it's the weekend and it's time to watch something, I get generally about four choices Number one, for my oldest son, it's the baseball playoffs are on, we're watching the ballgame I was just asking for the score a minute ago >> Who's your team? >> Braves and in the National League the Marlins, the National League and of course, the Braves I grew up with the Braves, of course

>> As we all did in our generation Those younger kids have their own baseball team So, okay, you're watching the Braves, what else? >> My other son also, he is a thinker so he has the History Channel on, which I think is great And my daughter, my oldest daughter, she loves horses So if you search through those channels, you will find these horse events, and there are fancy words that describe these horse events, you probably know what they are and I don't, but I watch them and they are wonderful

Here's the big winner at home though, these fix up shows have captured the imagination of my entire family, so we're watching Fixer Upper or all these other named shows, and I have to say I enjoy them, too >> Just a shameless plug, when you're on HGTV if you're thinking about places to place your ads as a candidate, I'm just saying, cable's a great place to put those ads at HDTV Well, Representative Fant, thank you so much for joining us Thanks for sharing with us your philosophy on your Attorney General's race Good luck to you and we'll stay tuned for any news on your campaign

Thank you very much >> Well that's all the time we have for today's edition of Capital Dateline Tune in to us on our Facebook page at Capital Dateline Online or follow us on our Twitter feed @theFCTA For now, thanks for tuning in

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