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Perry Thurston Makes More Sense for Democrats than George Sheldon

October 23, 2013 - 6:00pm

After George Sheldon announced on Monday that he would run for the Democratic nomination to challenge Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Perry Thurston said he could possibly run.

Currently leading Democrats in the Florida House, Thurston is looking at running for a Senate seat in 2016, which makes sense. Democrats generally have more influence in the more congenial Senate which is much less partisan than the House.

Right now, Thurston has an open election in 2014. Hes term-limited in the House while Chris Smith wont be leaving the Senate until 2016. In floating his trial balloons about running against Bondi this week, Thurston said he is willing to help the party in any way he can and that could mean entering the attorney general contest.

Thurston doesnt have Sheldons experience in running state and federal agencies or serving as deputy attorney general. But Thurstons political credentials far exceed Sheldons.

Democrats clearly want an African-American on the ticket in 2014 as their support for the unvetted and untested Allie Braswell for CFO showed. Braswell dropped out of the race less than a week after getting in as news broke about his personal bankruptcies. Thurston could help fill the bill and, as one of the leading Democrats in Florida, is clearly more tested than Braswell.

Thurston also has a geographic base in Broward County, the second most populated county in Florida. Democrats need to turn out voters there if they want to defeat Rick Scott in 2014. By running against Bondi, Thurston could help pump out Broward County Democrats for Charlie Crist.

Considerably younger and certainly more dynamic than Sheldon, Thurston has never hesitated from taking the fight to Republicans. Thurston has his vulnerabilities to be sure, including suggesting the possibility of higher taxes when he met with Rick Scott early in the governors term, but he makes more sense for Democrats than Sheldon who tried to run for state office twice before and underwhelmed both times.

Like Sheldon, Thurston would be an underdog against Bondi but he would be one with a punchers chance. Thurston also has experience raising funds for House Democrats. Fundraising should be another advantage for Thurston if he chooses to take on Sheldon in the primary.

Even if he never offers Bondi a competitive challenge next year, a Thurston candidacy could help Democrats win their first gubernatorial election in 20 years. Thurston would help Democrats more than Sheldon in that spot. And whatever happens in 2014, Thurston, at the very least, has to be counted as a heavy favorite to win the Senate seat in 2016. However the chips fall, Perry Thurston is set to be a player in Florida politics for a while longer.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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