Bondi widens fundraising gap as Dems Thurston and Sheldon battle for AG nom
Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, filed his first campaign finance report Tuesday for Attorney General and the message is clear.
He's not dropping out any time soon.
Thurston raised $21,500 in November, even though he didn't hold a fundraiser. His first one is Friday in Tamarac. He still trails George Sheldon, the former secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families, who raised $46,379 in November to raise his total to $52,310. Sheldon got into the race Oct. 21, five days before Thurston.
"He got in the race before me," Thurston said, explaining Sheldon's fundraising edge. "But that's ok. It is for real. We assume there will be a primary and it's going to be a pretty good primary."
Awaiting the Democratic victor will be current Attorney General Pam Bondi, who raised a total of $316,823 in November from two committees and her own campaign, including paid expenses for consulting, sponsorships and media play. Since announcing her reelection bid this summer, Bondi has raised a total of $1.9 million.
Thurston's debut finance report shows he received $6,000 from omnipresent Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book. During the last session, Book pushed lawmakers to approve state financing for a $350 million rehab of Sun Life Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins. Thurston supported that measure, which died in the House.
"Over the course of the last five years, you'll see I've been helpful in a number of (Book's) ventures, but there are some other ventures of his that I didn't support," Thurston said.
Sheldon raised much of his money from a batch of contacts he's collected since coming to Tallahassee in 1969 as a legislative aide. He calls the money he's raised so far "seed money" that will provide his campaign with the necessary infrastructure to raise the serious money he says he needs to compete against Bondi.
"I'm not an expert at raising money," Sheldon said. "You start with your contacts and who've you known over the years and move on from there. It's going to be January before we really get going."
He said Thurston's initial filing shows that he plans to hang in the race and force a primary. He said he hasn't been following Bondi's financing efforts of late.
"I'm starting with the premise that she'll have sufficient dollars," Sheldon said.
Indeed, Bondi's campaign opened a second fundraising committee in November. Called "Justice for All", it's a political committee that resembles "And Justice for All" which was created for Bondi in September.
The older committee, which is an electioneering communications organization, raised $47,500, capping a three month total at $941,582. November's haul included $25,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Also dubbed a 527 committee for the section of federal code it's named after, ECOs can coordinate with candidates and advocate for them and smear opponents as long as they stay away from certain words in campaign material, like "vote for" or "vote against."
The newer committee, "Justice for All" raised $102,250 in November, including $25,000 from wine and beer distributors. It's a political committee that has similar powers to an ECO. One major difference, however, is this type of political committee can transfer its money to another candidate if need be.
The money these two committees raised is in addition to the $167,000 her own campaign raised last month. But much of those contibutions -- more than $70,000 -- are from the Republican Party of Florida.
The party wants to make sure Bondi doesn't become the first AG since James Kynes in 1964 to lose.