George Sheldon Could Help Old Rival Charlie Crist by Taking on Pam Bondi
Around the State
George Sheldon will be leaving Washington and heading home to Florida as buzz continues to grow that he will challenge Pam Bondi in 2014.
In recent years, Sheldon has been in Washington as a member of the Obama administration but he has spent many years on the Florida political stage. He had been appointed to serve as acting assistant secretary for children and families in the federal department of Health and Human Services. Kathleen Sebelius announced last week he was leaving HHS and was going back to Florida. He will leave the HHS post in the middle of October.
No bones about it. Sheldon has failed when he has sought higher office. The contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore in Florida is still synonymous for being a close race, but Charlie Crist had no problem dispatching Sheldon in the same election, beating him by 7 percent to be state education commissioner in 2000. Two years later, Sheldon ran for Butterworth’s job but he came in third behind Buddy Dyer and Scott Maddox in the Democratic attorney general primary. Even as late as 2010, Sheldon was talking about running for governor with no party affiliation but ultimately decided against entering the race.
Despite showing no ability as a candidate for statewide office, Sheldon’s credentials are impressive. Starting off as an aide to Reubin Askew, Sheldon was elected to the Legislature and was deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth. When Crist named Butterworth to head up the Department of Children and Families, Sheldon was once again his deputy but eventually moved to the top spot there.
It was an odd alliance seeing Sheldon working for Crist, the man who defeated him back in 2000. But Sheldon had no problem carrying water for Crist and could do it again. Crist is expected to be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Sheldon, if he runs for attorney general, could help the ticket considerably, forcing Republicans to spend time and money to help Bondi. At the very least, as a veteran politico, Sheldon won’t cause Florida Democrats the embarrassment that inept CFO candidate Allie Braswell did in his short-lived campaign. Still, Sheldon can’t spur turnout for Crist in a certain area. He simply doesn’t have a geographic base which hurt him against Dyer and Maddox in the primary in 2002.
The names of other Democrats are being kicked around to challenge Bondi, including Dan Gelber and Perry Thurston, who would, at first glance, help the ticket more than Sheldon even if they were underdogs against the Republican Bondi.
Despite his experience and credentials, Sheldon’s political future might be more of his past: namely in holding appointive office and failing on the campaign trail. It’s even possible that he once again will work for Crist, despite their battle back in 2000.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.