Wellington lawyer and Florida attorney general candidate Jeffrey Siskind. Courtesy photo

When he began his professional career, Jeffrey Marc Siskind didn’t harbor ambitions of one day running for Florida attorney general.

For that matter, he didn’t have his sights set on becoming a litigator at all.

“I was in the development business with my father, and then I struck out on my own and did some hospitality ventures. I then got into construction and realized after a few years that all of our projects eventually fell into the hands of attorneys who made … the majority of the lion’s share of the retainage,” Siskind told the Daily Business Review. “So I thought, ‘I think I’m going to go into this business!’ ”

Despite his unlikely origins, Siskind is now angling to become Florida’s top law enforcement official. Siskind, a Wellington-based litigator, will be one of voters’ three options on the midterm election ballot this November to replace current Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi once she finishes her final term. He will be facing off against state representative and Democratic nominee for attorney general Sean Shaw as well as former circuit judge and federal prosecutor Ashley Moody, the Republican candidate for the position.

Although the Democratic and Republican slots for attorney general candidate are filled, Siskind’s run as an independent is one of design, not of necessity.

“I don’t believe in the parties anymore,” Siskind said, adding that he self-identified as a Democrat until his 20s when he became a Republican. He said he began calling himself an independent roughly two decades ago and points to the United States’ present bout of political polarization and turmoil as an indictment of the country’s two-party system.

“I’m a centrist. I don’t know that people use that term very much, but I appall what’s going on with the partisan fighting nationally — it has no place in state politics and local politics, and we’re learning that,” Siskind said. “What we’ve had to watch over the last two years — and really more than that — has been … a deterioration in our national politics.”

“I hadn’t really thought seriously about it until the Marjory Stoneman Douglas incident when I just said enough is enough,” Siskind said. “We’re all adults in the room here, why can’t we do something about firearms that makes sense?”

Siskind explained that one of his top priorities as attorney general would be the institution of what he calls a “Gun Club.” Equating the concept to leaving one’s “golf clubs at the country club” or “boat at the marina,” Siskind described his proposal as a means to limit the circulation of privately owned firearms in public spaces.

“[A gun] could only be transported in certain ways between the vendor, whoever you would sell your firearm to or other gun clubs; it would never be allowed out in public except of course for law enforcement,” Siskind said. “So you’d still have your personal protection weapons, pistols and whatnot that you could keep at home, but we’ve got to get those off the streets. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a cure-some. And if we can save some lives that way and get people thinking a little bit differently about firearms, then hopefully my gun compact will be a good start to remedy that.”

Siskind also believes that the attorney general’s office is too isolated as it presently functions. He says that one of his first moves if elected would be to create two deputy AG positions — one for a “judicial liason officer,” and the other “a legislative liasion officer.” Both would be tasked with refining communications between different state government agencies and in turn reduce what he regards as “inefficiencies,” such as an underfunded and understaffed judiciary.

“We have judges who have to share resources. They have to share their law clerks for example,” Siskind said. “Money that’s been allocated for the judiciary has always been taken and used for other purposes. And that is a violation of our state’s responsibilities towards citizens because we all depend on the the judicial apparatus. It’s essentially what gives us a peace of mind that we’ll be treated with fairness.”

Besides the uphill battle faced by any independent candidate, Siskind also has to contend with bad press. A September 2018 story in the Palm Beach Post features testimony from former clients alleging that Siskind committed fraud and misappropriated funds among other charges. While the paper could only confirm one complaint for “funds/trust accounting violations,” through a Florida Bar spokesman, several of those interviewed by the Post said they had filed complaints against Siskind with the bar.

Siskind told the Daily Business Review that although many of the allegations levied against him in the story are “easily disproved,” he maintained that “the media is not the place to do it.”

“There were sufficient papers within the cases that showed that the allegations were entirely false,” he said. “I realize those allegations may make people uncomfortable, and I would hope that those people would actually take a look at the docket entries in those cases, which are public record, and satisfy themselves that the allegations really don’t make sense.”

“Know this is something that is in the courts, and that’s where we’re going to resolve it. And I’m not going to battle it in the media because I think that’s inappropriate.”

Jeffrey Marc Siskind

Born: March 1955, Baltimore, Maryland Spouse:  Tanya L. Siskind Children:  Samantha Leigh Siskind, Jack Thomas-Edward Siskind, Scarlett Leigh Siskind Education: Southwestern University, J.D., 1996; Harvard University, ALM 1983; Harvard University, ALB 1982 Experience: Siskind Legal, 1997 to Present