Florida's AG Race Shapes Up as Candidates Maneuver for Ground
Around the State
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and her opponents are squaring off in the most competitive statewide election in the Sunshine State outside the gubernatorial contest, and they spent recent days maneuvering for position and looking ahead toward holding debates.
Former DCF Secretary George Sheldon, the Democratic nominee challenging Bondi, unveiled a new group to support his campaign on Tuesday as he made a play for the center, even as his Republican opponent showcased her ties to the GOP.
Sheldon was in Tallahassee on Tuesday to launch Floridians Seeking Common Ground which will be led by former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Quincy Police Chief Walt McNeil.
“Our mission is to make government work again and to focus more attention on issues and solutions to problems where there is broad agreement among Democrats, Republicans and independents,” Sheldon said, pointing to various areas.
“People in both parties care about our environment, about assuring supplies of clean water to support our growing population, about our clean air and beautiful beaches that attract millions of tourists each year, about restoring the Everglades and other environmentally sensitive parts of our beautiful state,” Sheldon said. “Common ground also means protecting consumers by keeping utility companies and financial institutions in check. It means listening to doctors and scientists on policies like medical marijuana and climate change.”
“Our country cannot continue on this path where politicians would rather fight with each other than solve problems,” said Butterworth under whom Sheldon served as deputy attorney general and deputy DCF secretary. “We can make tremendous progress on so many issues where there is widespread agreement among the people only if we can elect political leaders who want to get these things done instead of score political points for their party.”
But even as Sheldon looked for “common ground” between political affiliations, he spent the Labor Day weekend stumping alongside an old political foe in former Gov. Charlie Crist. Now the Democratic candidate challenging Gov. Rick Scott in November, Crist, then a Republican, defeated Sheldon to become education commissioner back in 2000. In 2002, when Crist was the clear favorite for the Republican nomination to become Florida attorney general, Sheldon ran in the Democratic primary, placing third.
In the meantime, Bondi is highlighting her ties to the Republican leadership, including stumping for Scott in recent days. Alongside Scott, Bondi campaigned in Plant City on Monday and Fort Myers on Tuesday.
After Sheldon won the Democratic nomination in last week’s primary, Bondi said there remained “clear” differences between them and called for debates.
“I have been honored to serve as Florida’s attorney general over the last four years, and am proud of the incredible progress we have made in shutting down pill mills across the state, eradicating synthetic drugs, working to combat human trafficking and protecting our citizens from fraud,” said Bondi last week. “The voters will have a clear choice between candidates in this election, and they deserve to hear directly from us on the distinct difference in visions and leadership that each candidate will offer to the attorney general’s office. This can be accomplished through thoughtful and respectful dialogue worthy of our great state.”
Sheldon responded to Bondi on Friday in a letter calling for five debates.
“We have so many important issues in this election, and one debate cannot possibly do them justice," Sheldon wrote. “Voters should be well-informed about both candidates’ commitment to consumer protection, fighting Medicaid fraud, punishing human traffickers and helping their victims recover, concerted action against pill mills, the role of the attorney general’s office in promoting equal rights and equal justice under the law and in making sure that utility rates do not reward utilities for bad management decisions.
“There are also the issues related to the attorney general’s role as a member of the Cabinet, including the protection of public lands, the integrity of the state pension fund and the state’s commitment to the public employees who rely on the pensions they have earned,” Sheldon continued. “The choice of an attorney general every four years deserves more than one debate, and I hope we can share these public platforms to help the voters better understand the vision and plans each of us would bring to the office of attorney general.”
Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer, the Libertarian nominee in the race, called on Bondi and Sheldon to include him in any debates. Wohlsifer noted his opponents had not yet signed up for a debate hosted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in which he will take part.
"Neither of my opponents have (sic) answered the invitation to join the debate organized by FAU that includes all three of the candidates for attorney general in Florida,” Wohlsifer noted over the weekend.
The Libertarian sent an open letter to Bondi and Sheldon, calling on them to debate him.
“We have each been invited to debate on campus at FAU in Boca Raton on Oct. 8, 2014, by FAU's Political Science Department,” Wohlsifer wrote. “The event was announced months ago, yet I am the only one who accepted the challenge. Please stand up and accept the invitation and join the debate with me on campus. I look forward to seeing you there.”
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