Pam Bondi's Edge Expands Against Rivals in AG Race
Around the State
Pam Bondi’s edge over her various rivals continues to grow as she runs for a second term as Florida’s attorney general.
Already leading the polls, Bondi holds a considerable advantage over other candidates in the race. By the end of April she had brought in almost $1.16 million, relied on more than $684,000 of in-kind donations and spent less than $52,300. That figure doesn’t include two committees affiliated with Bondi -- “Justice for All” and “And Justice for All” -- which have already raised an additional $1.7 million.
So far, the stars aren’t exactly lining up. George Sheldon raised almost $212,400 so far in the campaign but he’s already spent $215,309, leaving his campaign running on fumes. Sheldon’s spending has gotten out of control in recent months, blowing through more than $114,300 in March and April while raising less than $69,300 during that time.
Sheldon’s electoral past doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. He’s risen to political prominence through appointed office in Tallahassee and Washington. Sheldon’s had some important positions, ranging from DCF secretary to assistant secretary of HHS and Florida deputy attorney general. But when he has stepped up for higher office -- a congressional bid in the early 1980s running against Charlie Crist to be education commissioner; running for the Democratic attorney general nomination in 2002 when he finished third -- Sheldon has failed miserably.
To his credit, Sheldon is at least trying to turn things around in May with fundraisers scheduled in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday and again later in the month. He also brought three former presidents of the American Bar Association on board earlier in May and now has longtime ally Lance Block running the campaign.
Perry Thurston is also running for the Democratic nomination. Leading Democrats in the Florida House, Thurston couldn’t raise campaign cash during session. Having brought in around $102,400 by the end of April, Thurston has not kept pace with Sheldon in the money chase. But Thurston spent less than $26,100, giving him more cash in the bank than his primary opponent.
Thurston tried his best during session to get his candidacy some notice. Some of it paid off as he was a bit more aggressive in going after Rick Scott than other Democrats in Tallahassee. But Thurston also made some major mistakes, including forcing a last-minute caucus vote on Stand Your Ground, leading to accusations he was more concerned with his underdog challenge to Bondi instead of leading Democrats in the House.
Libertarian Bill Wohlsifer is also in the mix. Wohslifer should profit from Floridians being tired of the two major parties but it’s hard to see him being a major factor in the race, especially if Bondi continues to maintain a solid lead. Wohlsifer should reel in supporters of marijuana legalization but he’s not quite as dynamic as other Florida Libertarians like Adrian Wyllie and Lucas Overby. But he should make the ballot and will draw votes from Floridians who are tired of politics as usual. By the end of April, he loaned his campaign $3,000 and raised around $6,300.
To be sure, either of the Democrats, Thurston in particular, could help Charlie Crist in the general election by helping raise the turnout, especially in Broward County. But neither Sheldon nor Thurston is, at this point, a threat to Bondi. As of now, Bondi’s in the lead and this is her race to lose.
Tallahassee-based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.