Is George Sheldon vs. Pam Bondi His Last Hurrah?
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Almost 45 years after he went to work for a state senator from the Panhandle by the name of Reubin Askew back in 1969, George Sheldon is trying, once again, to fulfill the potential he once showed as a rising politician, this time by running for attorney general against Pam Bondi.
Now 66 and a very familiar figure in Tallahassee, it’s easy to forget Sheldon was a rising star at one point. Serving in the Askew administration, Sheldon was elected to the Legislature in 1974. After eight years in the House, Sheldon went into private practice before resurfacing as Bob Butterworth’s deputy attorney general.
Once again hitching his wagon to Butterworth, Sheldon had a brief comeback in Tallahassee in service to an old rival. 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. Since then, Sheldon has been in Washington as a member of the Obama administration, giving up his post of acting assistant secretary for children and families in the federal department of Health and Human Services.
Despite his credentials, Sheldon has some challenges as he takes on Bondi. Sheldon has shown little capacity to fundraise in his past campaigns. That would be a major problem in 2014 with Bondi and the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) expected to be flush with cash. Sheldon also is handicapped by his lack of a geographic base which hurt him against Dyer and Maddox in the primary in 2002.
Bondi offers a sharp contrast to Sheldon. A favorite of conservatives, Bondi will play up her opposition to Obamacare while Sheldon will defend it. Bondi is 47 and dynamic, leading to her being a frequent guest on Fox News and recognition as a rising Republican star. She’s had a few stumbles to be sure, but she does start the contest as a heavy favorite.
Sheldon is 66 and is well-versed on policy and public affairs but nobody would ever consider him dynamic. With Crist -- who left the GOP in 2010 to run for the Senate with no party affiliation and is now a Democrat -- expected to run for governor in 2014, Sheldon could face questions about his former rival now at the top of the ticket and his flirting with leaving the Democrats to run for governor.
Based on all of this, Sheldon appears made to order for Bondi despite her recent stumbles, like moving an execution due to a fundraising event. At first glance, Sheldon wouldn't appear likely to help Crist and the Democratic ticket by increasing turnout in a certain geographic area or with a demographic group. Despite his experience and credentials, Sheldon, once a rising star, seems unlikely to fulfill the potential he once showed.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.