Sunshine State News: “Democrats in the Legislature Back Ryan Torrens for Attorney General”

Original article: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/democrats-legislature-back-ryan-torrens-attorney-general

Democrats in the Florida Legislature, especially those from his Central Florida home turf, are starting to fall in line behind attorney Ryan Torrens’ bid to be the state’s next attorney general.

Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando, announced on Tuesday that she was backing Torrens who is, so far, the only Democrat in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi who faces term limits.

“The people of District 48 and all across Florida need a fighter and champion like Ryan Torrens who will fight for them as their attorney general,” Mercado said. “He has fought for his clients against the biggest banks in this country and will fight for all Floridians when he’s elected.”

“As a mother, wife, and businesswoman, I fully support Ryan Torrens as our new attorney general in Tallahassee,” Mercado added.

For his part, Torrens welcomed the Orange County legislator’s support.

“Representative Mercado is a strong voice for good paying jobs and economic security, and if elected as the next Florida attorney general, I will be proud to fight alongside her for these same issues,” Torrens said. “The people of Florida need leaders in Tallahassee who will fight for the interests of every single Floridian, not just the special interests or the largest corporations. Together, Representative Mercado and I will ensure that all voices are heard in Tallahassee.”

Mercado becomes the second legislator to endorse Torrens in recent days. Last week, Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, announced that he was backing Torrens.

“As a retired corrections officer and a state legislator, I fully endorse Ryan for this important cabinet position,” Cortes said. “He has a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing Floridians, from consumer rights to the opioid crisis. I am confident if Ryan is elected, he will fight to protect all Floridians.”

So far Torrens is the only Democrat running for attorney general though attorney Mitchell Berger, who has raised money for the party, has opened the door to getting in the race.

On the Republican side, state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Judge Ashley Moody are running for attorney general. Attorney Bill Wohlsifer, who was the Libertarian Party’s candidate in 2014, could opt for a second bid for attorney general.

So far, Torrens is not keeping up with his two Republican opponents in the money chase. As of the end of July, Torrens has raised almost $29,000 but spent almost $12,450 of that amount. Moody has raised more than $607,7000 and spent almost $16,000. Fant has raised more than $163,600 and spent around $5,450.

Orlando-Politics.com: “Democratic Attorney General Candidate Ryan Torrens Promises Big Pharma Lawsuit”

Original article: http://orlando-politics.com/2017/08/15/democratic-attorney-general-candidate-ryan-torrens-promises-big-pharma-lawsuit/

Ryan Torrens, Democratic candidate for Florida Attorney General, has announced that he will pursue litigation against major pharmaceutical companies responsible for the production and distribution of opioids including OxyContin and Percocet and called out current Attorney General Pam Bondi for not doing so.

“I congratulate the Republican attorney general of Ohio, Mike DeWine, and the other attorneys general who have been leading the charge on this issue. If attorney general Bondi does not follow suit, I will,” said Torrens. “These pharmaceutical companies have knowingly misled physicians and patients into believing that these opioids did not contain addictive qualities,” said Torrens. “I believe it is vital to hold the manufacturers of these drugs accountable for their actions. For far too long, these companies have been able to act with impunity and indifference to the suffering of thousands of families. One life lost is simply too many. As Florida’s attorney general and top consumer advocate, I vow to stand up for each one of these victims and their families and zealously pursue justice on their behalf,” said Torrens.

The national opioid crisis has hit Florida particularly hard in recent years. Orange County has a special task force dedicated to the problem. Florida experienced a 139.5 percent increase in deaths caused by fentanyl in the first six months of 2016 compared to the first six months of 2015. In the United States, an estimated $420 billion dollars has been spent related to health care costs, crime and lost economic opportunity as a result of substance abuse disorders. Drug abuse is estimated to cost employers $81 billion dollars a year.

While the numbers and statistics are quite sobering, the numbers do not tell the whole story of opioid addiction. Each addict and overdose victim is a mother, a father, daughter, a son and a friend. This human toll is immeasurable.

Orlando-Politics.com: “Rep. John Cortes Endorses Torrens for Attorney General”

Original article: http://orlando-politics.com/2017/08/10/rep-john-cortes-endorses-torrens-for-attorney-general/

Democratic Candidate for Attorney General Ryan Torrens announced Florida State Representative John Cortes, Florida District 43, is endorsing his campaign. “As a retired corrections officer and a state legislator, I fully endorse Ryan for this important cabinet position. He has a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing Floridians, from consumer rights to the opioid crisis. I am confident if Ryan is elected, he will fight to protect all Floridians.”

Torrens proudly received the endorsement: “Representative Cortes fights everyday for his constituents for better jobs and better education, and I am proud to have his support in this race,” Torrens said. “We need more champions for everyday Floridians, and with his support, we will take our message to all 67 counties so that we can have an attorney general who will fight for our people and stand up to the special interests.”

Torrens is the only Democratic candidate officially declared in this race, facing State Representative Jay Fant, who represents Jacksonville’s 15th District and former Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge, Ashley Moody.

Tampa Bay Times: “Five questions for the Democrat running for attorney general”

Original article: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/five-questions-for-the-democrat-running-for-attorney-general/2331309

Q: What was the spark that made you want to concentrate on consumer protection and foreclosure defense?

TORRENS: When I came back home to Tampa after being in Washington D.C. for 4½ years, I worked on a federal government-mandated foreclosure review process that was operated through the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. And that was a federal government-mandated project where these consultants, me being one of them, had to review the toxic loans that Bank of America and other lenders had made. So I worked on the Bank of America site in Tampa. I saw a lot of abuses that had been committed by Bank of America. I saw a couple of cases where people had been foreclosed upon while they were serving our country; foreclosures that had taken place without proper notice. That’s when I was kind of exposed to the area of consumer law. And I saw the difference that a good lawyer could make.

Q: You have talked about the Attorney General’s Office needing to be the state’s top consumer advocate and protector. What consumer directives have been neglected and what changes are needed?

TORRENS: One consumer directive that the current attorney general has neglected is to hold pharmaceutical companies liable for the opioid crisis that Florida is facing right now. Another consumer area that our current attorney general is ignoring is that our banks are foreclosing on our homeowners while they’re also telling them that they’re considering them for a loan modification. That’s illegal. And she has not brought an action to enforce that. There are also a lot of problems in the student-loan industry, and she has not been involved in holding student lenders liable for their predatory practices.

Q: Where do you stand on the legality of Gov. Rick Scott’s effort to remove cases from a state attorney who will not pursue the death penalty?

TORRENS: The cases where the death penalty is an issue for the attorney general’s office are few and far between. But just as a general policy I would not adopt an across-the-board policy to not pursue the death penalty. I am personally opposed to the death penalty. I have been for many years. But I would still review the cases on a case-by-case basis.

Q: You’ve never run for any office before. You’re don’t have what insiders would say is a household name. Yet you’ve decided to take on a statewide campaign in a state where your party hasn’t had the greatest track record the past couple of decades. How do you expect to get any message out to, first, emerge as your party’s candidate, and then take on what many would expect to be a much better-funded candidate in the general election?

TORRENS: We will be employing a 67-county strategy. What we’ve been doing the past 20 years in Florida hasn’t been working, as you just noted. I think the fact that I’m young. I have a lot of energy. I’m not jaded. I don’t owe anyone any favors. I’m not a politician. And combined with my consumer-protection background, that makes me a unique candidate with a lot to offer.

I think that we as a party have been at fault on messaging. I think that we have been ignoring people, like a lot of people in this area where we are now (Torrens was in Tallahassee on Saturday). A lot of hard working class Floridians, who feel like they are being ignored by our party, and we sometimes have a tendency to come across like we’re talking down to them, instead of talking with them in a way that resonates. So we’re going to focus on talking to them on issues that are important to them, not trying to dictate how they are supposed to lead their lives. We’re going to change things up.

As for the second part, they (Republican candidates Ashley Moody and Jay Fant) are both well-funded. We will overcome that. I will never out-raise them, but I believe that we will raise enough to run a good campaign to run the operations of a campaign and get our message out. And I think we will have enough money to work hard enough to show the voters across the state that I am the candidate who has a proven track record of fighting for the people. And we’ll be very aggressive talking about the issues and showing the stark contrast between what we offer to do for our people and what the Republican candidates are offering to do. I think it will be very clear that I’m the one who’s looking to fight for our hard-working consumers.

(You mentioned a 67-county approach. Are there benchmarks for every county?)

We’re not under any delusions. We know it’s impossible to win every county. But I think in a lot of those areas that would be considered red areas, from the people I’ve talked to the last month and a half, I’m noticing that a lot of the voters are not necessary partisan. Some of them may usually vote Republican or Democratic, but they’re just looking for a candidate who’s going to fight for them. For me to hit my win number, I’m going to need a certain number of votes. We’re going to try to draw voters from all areas, even in counties where I may not have a realistic chance of prevailing.

Q: Why the need to open your past, in terms of battling alcohol addiction, and is there anything else that could appear negative if exposed first by a competitor or the media?

TORRENS: It’s important to show the voters that I’m being honest with them. And I think it’s also important because I hope to inspire some Floridians who may secretly be suffering addiction to come out of the shadows, so to speak, and to seek help. There is very much a stigma right now for people who are suffering with addiction. They think if they come out and seek help and people find out they may be deemed to be losers. I want them to see that I had the same struggles and I’m running for the office of Attorney General. There is really nothing to be ashamed about.

I also, I think, it’s important to show leadership. I think people are desperate for leadership on this issue. We intend to provide that. By me coming out, publicly, it shows that I can personally relate. I’ve had some folks already come up to me and privately share their past experience. They were inspired by what I had to say.

Will you be hearing more? Yes. It’s not like I’m going to talk about my own personal struggles every time I give a speech. At some point people will have heard enough of that. But people are going to be looking to see what I’m going to propose to actually do about this problem. We’re going to be coming out with some concrete proposals to address this crisis.

88.5 WNFM: “Ryan Torrens Florida Democratic Candidate for Attorney General”

Original interview: http://www.wmnf.org/ryan-torrens/

On the first part of Tuesday’s Radioactivty, host Rob Lorei spoke with attorney Ryan Torrens, a Democrat who is running for the office of Florida’s Attorney General. The election is next year but the race to replace the current attorney general, Pam Bondi, is already underway.

Efforts by some to have the Confederate statue removed from in front a Hillsborough County government building

Wednesday at the Hillsborough County Commission meeting, Commissioner Les Miller was planning to revisit the question of possibly removing a Confederate veterans memorial statue from in front of a County building in downtown Tampa. Last month, in a four to three vote, the county commission decided to keep the statue in front of the county court annex building on Pierce Street. Since that vote one of the commissioners, Victor Crist, who voted yes now says he is open to moving the statue off county property.

Rob spoke to Jae Passmore, who is a U.S. Army Veteran, Black Lives Matter activist, and member of the Hillsborough County Community Protection Coalition. He was also joined by Yvette Lewis, President of the Hillsborough County NAACP, and Dayna Lazarus, an activist and organizer with Organize Florida.

To listen back to this interview from Tuesday, July 18, 2017 click here.

FloridaPolitics.com: “Ryan Torrens, political outsider running for Attorney General, says he’s what Florida Democrats need”

Original article: http://floridapolitics.com/archives/241821-ryan-torrens-political-outsider-running-attorney-general-says-hes-florida-democrats-need

Consumer protection attorney Ryan Torrens is quite aware that he’s not an established political presence, but he says that should be an argument for his fledgling candidacy to become Florida’s next Attorney General.

“Look, I get it,” the 32-year-old told an audience who gathered Friday morning at Tampa’s Oxford Exchange to hear the Hillsborough County resident speak as part of the Cafe Con Tampa lecture series.

“I’m young. First-time candidate. A lot of people look at me and think, ‘Can he really win this thing? He’s never run for office before. He’s been practicing for five years? Come on.””

The answers are hard to dispute.

“In the Democratic Party in Florida, what we’ve been doing the last 20 years isn’t working.”

Torrens says he’s offering something different. Energy, passion, new ideas and the fact that he is decidedly not a politician, which he has surmised during his brief time as a statewide candidate is something that voters are hungry for.

A fifth generation Tampa native with Cuban roots, Torrens became the first (and still only) Democrat to file for Attorney General two months ago. Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and Jacksonville state Representative Jay Fant have filed to run in the GOP primary.

Under previous AG’s like Charlie Crist and Bob Butterworth, the position as Florida’s top cop was about being a consumer advocate for the people, something that Torrens says has been missing under Pam Bondi’s direction.

“A lot of people think it’s like the state attorney prosecuting murders and things like that,” he says of the AG’s job description.”That’s really not what the Attorney General does. If I’m Attorney General, I’m supposed to fight for all the people of Florida, and not simply take big contribution checks from companies and give them a pass.”

Working on the opioid epidemic he says will be a top priority in his administration, and if elected, he says he’ll sue the pharmaceutical companies for their role in perpetuating the crisis.

“They need to be held liable,” he says, “and we could use those proceeds from a settlement or a verdict to help get treatment from those who are currently suffering.”

That’s not such a radical idea, as attorneys general in Ohio and Mississippi have already done so.

Torrens recently outed himself as being a recovering alcoholic, and said that experience allows him to identify with Floridians working through their own addictions.

Referring to the controversy over the recent “school of hope” education bill, he talked about the state constitution, which says that the state must adequately fund public schools.

“I would like to see if the AG could possibly file a lawsuit against the Legislature, for not adequately funding the public schools, and fulfilling its constitutional obligation,” he said.

Torrens also says he’ll go after predatory student lenders and abusive debt collectors. But he insists that he’s not some “left-wing radical” who wants to pick on Wall Street.

“When I talk all over the state with Democrats and Republicans they want the same thing, which is, they need to follow the same rules.”

A political science major at the University of Tampa, Torrens sounds like an analyst when he told the crowd he understands that it’s been the Democratic party’s arrogance that led to the election of Donald Trump last November.

“They feel that the Democrats are not speaking to them. That we make promises that we’re going to fight for working class people, but we’re a bunch of hypocrites because we get into office and we don’t really fight for them,” he said, adding that “we have a tendency sometimes to talk down to working class people and they feel like we’re trying to dictate to them how they need to live their lives.”

Torrens will certainly be an underdog to the Republican nominee if makes it that far next year when it comes to fundraising. He announced that he had raised a little more than $22,000 after two months on the campaign trail recently.

Fant raised over $79,000, and Moody more than $600,000 between her own campaign and her political committee.

Tampa News Channel 8: “Tampa lawyer enters race for Florida attorney general”

Original article: http://wfla.com/2017/07/16/tampa-lawyer-enters-race-for-florida-attorney-general/

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa lawyer and political newcomer has entered the race to be Florida’s next attorney general.

Democrat Ryan Torrens sat down with News Channel 8 this week to talk about why he’s qualified to be the state’s top law enforcement officer.

Torrens is already facing fierce competition from Republican attorney general candidate Ashley Moody, but he says he’s ready for the job.

“People want something new,” Torrens said. “They want someone who doesn’t owe any favors to anyone.”

His Tampa law practice focuses on fighting home foreclosures and consumer protection lawsuits. But with that experience under his belt, would he be able to handle the countless criminal investigations that come into the AG’s office?

“The attorney general does defend the state in criminal appeals, but a large bulk of the work that the attorney general does is protecting our people,” he said. “Unfortunately, as of late, they haven’t been doing a very good job of it.”

At last check, his campaign war chest has $22,000. That’s compared to Moody’s nearly half a million dollars.

“Our donations are from everyday voters,” Torrens said. “If I’m elected attorney general, those are the people that I’m going to be fighting for. Not the special interest who can write a check for 30 or 40 thousand dollars.”

WFLA 8: “Tampa lawyer enters race for Florida attorney general”


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa lawyer and political newcomer has entered the race to be Florida’s next attorney general.

Democrat Ryan Torrens sat down with News Channel 8 this week to talk about why he’s qualified to be the state’s top law enforcement officer.

Torrens is already facing fierce competition from Republican attorney general candidate Ashley Moody, but he says he’s ready for the job.

“People want something new,” Torrens said. “They want someone who doesn’t owe any favors to anyone.”

His Tampa law practice focuses on fighting home foreclosures and consumer protection lawsuits. But with that experience under his belt, would he be able to handle the countless criminal investigations that come into the AG’s office?

“The attorney general does defend the state in criminal appeals, but a large bulk of the work that the attorney general does is protecting our people,” he said. “Unfortunately, as of late, they haven’t been doing a very good job of it.”

At last check, his campaign war chest has $22,000. That’s compared to Moody’s nearly half a million dollars.

“Our donations are from everyday voters,” Torrens said. “If I’m elected attorney general, those are the people that I’m going to be fighting for. Not the special interest who can write a check for 30 or 40 thousand dollars.”

Tampa Bay Times: “Riverview family gets to keep home in settlement with Homeowners Association”

Original article: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/realestate/riverview-family-gets-to-keep-home-in-settlement-with-association/2326645

A June 11 story in the Tampa Tribune section about the settlement of a legal dispute between Rivercrest Community Association Inc. and the owners of a Rivercrest home contained several errors. Here is the correct information:

• The homeowners, Luis Lopez and Tina Leonelli Lopez, were among the parties who announced the settlement in a news release.

• A lien on the Lopezes’ Rivercrest home was placed by the law firm of Cameron & Santiago PLLC in 2009. A different law firm was named in the story.

• Bush Ross, the law firm that represented Rivercrest in the dispute, did not sell the house. The house was put up for auction by Rivercrest with a judge’s permission.

• The terms of the legal settlement were available to the public. The settlement did not include an 18-month payback period.

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview family is breathing easier this week following negotiations with their homeowners association that will allow them to keep their home.

In a joint news release, the Rivercrest Community Association and Rivercrest homeowners Luis and Tina Leonelli Lopez announced a settlement stemming from a disputed $150 annual association fee.

Though the Lopezes said a canceled check showed they had paid the fee, a lien was put on their $270,000 home, which was auctioned last year with a judge’s permission for $19,000.

The parties entered mediation this year. Both agreed to ask the court to set aside the sale. In return, the couple agreed to pay $3,500 by June 16.

State law allows homeowners associations to tack on late fees, attorney’s fees and related collection costs to unpaid association fees and fines. If the homeowner fails to pay the fee, a lien can be placed on the property, allowing it to be disposed of at a public auction.

As part of the settlement, the Lopezes acknowledged that they “failed to submit their annual dues payments after they were due, later submitted partial payments and never submitted any payment for the penalties or court costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the association due to the continuing delinquency.”

Additionally, they promised not to discuss the settlement with news organizations.

Other homeowners continue to risk losing their homes for failing to pay disputed association fees and fines.

Last year, a lien was placed on the Sun City Center home of Richard Amisson even though his homeowners association acknowledged it had made an accounting error and that Amisson was up to date on his association payments.

To avoid losing his home, Amisson subsequently agreed to an undisclosed settlement.

Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens, who represented the Lopezes, said most homeowners eventually agree to pay something rather than risk losing their homes.

Since accepting the Lopez case, Torrens said he has received a number of calls from homeowners facing similar situations.

“We’re getting quite a few cases,” said Torrens, who specialized in consumer law and recently announced he’s running for Florida attorney general.

“A few have contested the fees and we’ve gone to litigation on their behalf. But we’ve been able to resolve most of the cases through mediation.”

In those cases, Torrens said, he recommended settling for a reduced payment knowing the homeowners don’t have the financial resources for a lengthy court battle.

“The HOA may be asking for $750 that the homeowner says he doesn’t owe,” Torrens said. “But it ends up becoming more expensive for the consumer to pay a lawyer to defend him than to just settle.”

Torrens believes the best remedy is to amend the state statute, Chapter 720, governing the 13,000 homeowners associations in Florida.

“It’s going to require legislative changes to get homeowners the release they need,” he said.

Torrens favors mandatory mediation before legal action is taken against a homeowner. This past legislative session, a reform bill proposed by Rep. Charlie Stone, R-Ocala, never made it out of committee.

FloridaPolitics.com: “Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens calls out Rick Scott for attempt to pack Supreme Court”

Original article: http://floridapolitics.com/archives/241108-attorney-general-candidate-ryan-torrens-calls-rick-scott-attempt-pack-supreme-court

In one of his first public statements since he announced his candidacy last month, Democratic Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens says he’s strongly opposed to Rick Scott’s attempt to replace three members of the Florida Supreme Court on his last day of office in 2019.

“In 2014, Florida voters had an opportunity to approve a constitutional amendment which would have permitted this practice and our voters rejected it,” Torrens said. “Governor Scott needs to respect the wishes of Florida voters and permit our new governor to appoint the replacement justices. After all, a newly-elected governor better reflects the will of the people rather than a governor elected four years ago.”

That constitutional amendment cited by Torrens not only failed to get the 60 percent support necessary for passage but lost outright by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. However, Scott continues to say that after finishing his second term in January of 2019, he will name the the successors to the three justices who are scheduled to leave office on the same day as he does.

Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince are scheduled to retire because they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Jan. 8, 2019 — the same day a new Governor will be sworn in the replace Scott. They also make up a part of the Florida Supreme Court’s liberal majority.

Two voting rights groups – the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause – filed a petition last month requesting that the Florida Supreme Court Governor Scott from appointing the justices’ replacements.

“I encourage the Florida Supreme Court to affirm the will of the voters and to find that this appointment power rests with the newly-elected governor, not the outgoing governor,”said Torrens, who is also calling on Attorney General Pam Bondi to take a stand on Scott’s attempt to “pack our Supreme Court.”

“We should rise above partisan politics and respect the wishes of our voters,” the University of Tampa graduate says.

“When I am your attorney general, I will always fight for our people over entrenched special interests, even if that means standing up to our governor,” said Torrens.

The 32-year-old Odessa based attorney has just recently announced his candidacy attorney general, the first Democrat to do so.

Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and Jacksonville area state Representative Jay Fant have filed to run in the Republican race for AG.