George Sheldon accuses Attorney General Pam Bondi of wasting Florida's resources
While George Sheldon is new to Florida’s attorney general race, he’s no stranger in state politics.
The onetime Democratic representative said Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi has been wasting taxpayer resources on partisan crusades that don’t directly affect Florida policy, he told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Wednesday.
Citing Bondi’s involvement in lawsuits opposing the Affordable Care Act and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, Sheldon said she had turned a traditionally non-partisan position into a soapbox. Her vocal support of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling on contraception and declaration that recognizing gay marriages performed in other states would “impose significant public harm” in Florida are further proof, he said.
“I really think she sees herself as the governor’s lawyer, not the people’s lawyer,” Sheldon said. Her opposition to these issues coincides with an overall shift among states with Republican attorney generals to become more partisan over the last four years or so. But even among that group, Bondi is as “far out” on the right on issues.
He further criticized Bondi for one of her political committees accepting a $25,000 contribution from one of Donald Trump’s foundations three days after her office began reviewing allegations by the state of New York about Trump-connected get-rich-quick seminars.
Sheldon said the state needs to consider reversing course on some subjects based on how much they truly would help the state, including Medicaid expansion, which he said would save the state money even when federal funding would be reduced in the future. He also would not oppose medical marijuana; Bondi this year had taken a proposed amendment to allow the drug to the state supreme court over ballot language.
“Your first duty is to the constitution,” he said, saying subjects like equality and voter rights are more the things attorney generals should be defending.
Sheldon faces House Minority Leader Perry Thurston in the Democratic primary. Sheldon was most recently an assistant secretary for federal Department of Health and Human Services, focusing on children and families.
“I would not consider getting in this race if I hadn’t had some national exposure,” Sheldon said, noting Bondi has a very high public profile, positive or not. He also said her fund-raising prowess is a major obstacle, but if he beats Thurston in the primary, he expects some outside help.
“I don’t think we need to be dollar for dollar, but we can’t be outspent three to one,” he said.
He began his political career as an aide to then-state Sen. Reubin Askew before becoming a state representative in 1974. Sheldon has served as deputy attorney general and secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families under Gov. Crist, against whom he once faced for the office of education commissioner.
Sheldon said whether he gets the nomination or not, the fate of Gov. Rick Scott’s Democratic challenger will likely determine who wins the attorney general’s office.
“I think the Democratic nominee for governor is going to have to win by two to three points to bring in this race.”