The Herald recommends

Along with the governor, Florida's Cabinet officers serve as the Board of Clemency, oversee state pension funds and trust accounts, issue bonds, supervise the state's Veterans Affairs, Motor Vehicles, Law Enforcement and Revenue departments and have authority over all local comprehensive plans. They hear appeals of proposed developments of regional impact and administer the conservation and recreational land purchase program.

Chief Financial Officer

The main candidates in this race are Republican Jeff Atwater, 52, outgoing president of the state Senate, and Democrat Loranne Ausley, 47, a term-limited legislator from Tallahassee. Candidates Ken Mazzie and Tom Stearns have no party affiliation.

Florida's CFO oversees state finances, has a vote in Cabinet decisions, supervises insurance and consumer officers, runs a new Medicaid fraud strike force, and acts as a trustee of the board that governs the state pension fund -- among other things.

Ms. Ausley, an expert on Florida's budget, is well-versed on the issues. She wants to reform the way Florida hands out state contracts, saying the current system has ``no accountability, no transparency, no consistency.'' She's critical of Mr. Atwater for presiding over a body that approved the teacher-bashing Senate Bill 6 and the so-called ``Taj Mahal'' courthouse in Tallahassee.

However, Mr. Atwater, a banker, is a moderate who on more than one occasion has blocked some of the House's more extreme measures. When House leaders in 2009 demanded bigger cuts to higher education, state-worker pay and a transportation fund, he called the actions ``destructive'' and refused to go along. A recent attack ad against Ms. Ausley accuses her of voting for higher taxes, but Mr. Atwater last year presided over a chamber that increased cigarette taxes and some fees by $2.2 billion -- because it was the right and responsible thing to do to balance the budget.

For chief financial officer, The Miami Herald recommends JEFF ATWATER.