Friday, January 19, 2018
Politics

Residency questions arise over attorney general candidate Sheldon

TALLAHASSEE — George Sheldon has spent nine months and raised nearly $300,000 to become Florida's next attorney general.

But now his candidacy is in some doubt because of questions over where he has lived.

"For him to stay in the race, he has to satisfy the legal requirement of being a resident," said his opponent in the Aug. 26 primary, House Democratic Leader Rep. Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale. "The residency issue is an issue, based on my reading of the Constitution. I think it raises some serious questions."

According to the Florida Constitution, those running for attorney general must reside in the state the preceding seven years.

From 2011 to October 2013, Sheldon held a $179,000 job at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that required him to live, at least part time, out of state.

Sheldon says there's no problem because he claimed Florida's $50,000 homestead tax exemption for one of his two Tallahassee homes. He said he didn't rent out the home and would visit it periodically. And he kept his voter registration in Tallahassee.

"I was clearly a resident," Sheldon said. "As long as I maintained my residence in Florida, I think I qualify."

But in a Wednesday email to the Florida Bar, Sheldon said that he had been living out of state. He was seeking to qualify for an exemption from a Florida Bar requirement to take continuing legal education, and to reinstate his eligibility to practice law.

"I was acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services living in Washington as demonstrated by my address in Washington," Sheldon wrote to Michelle Francis, the Bar's education compliance and accreditation manager. "As such, I am exempt for those years from the CLE requirement and assumed that the Bar was aware of my status."

Sheldon's plea worked. The Florida Bar reinstated his status as a "member in good standing" later that afternoon, although it still lists his Washington address. Now that he lives in Florida, Sheldon must comply with the rule in the future.

He was seeking an exemption to the Florida Bar rules that applies for "nonresident members not delivering legal services or advice on matters or issues governed by Florida law." If he qualifies for that, how does he also count as a state resident under the Constitution?

"I don't see a conflict," Sheldon said. "But we'll have some lawyers look at it."

Sheldon's residency became an issue after he learned Tuesday that his Bar license had lapsed because he had failed to complete or report continued education. To be attorney general, Sheldon needed the law license.

The Constitution's residency requirement disqualified another Democratic candidate in 2005. Lawton "Bud" Chiles, son of the late governor, had to bow out of the race because he had lived in New York and New Jersey for a decade before moving back to Florida three years before the election.

Florida Bar executive director John Harkness said Sheldon's residency status, from the Bar's perspective, pertains to where he was practicing law. Still, he said he didn't know if Sheldon's status as an attorney general candidate was at risk because of the exemption.

It's not clear who would challenge Sheldon in this case.

Brittany Lesser, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State, said it's not within the Division of Election's authority to determine if Sheldon meets the residency requirement.

Thurston said he'll monitor the issue, but the Florida Democratic Party needs to settle it.

"Is this an issue they want to deal with now or later?" Thurston said, alluding to Republican incumbent Pam Bondi, who awaits the Democratic victor in the general election.

Joshua Karp, a spokesman for the state Democratic party, said it won't play a role in determining if Sheldon meets the residency requirement.

"This is a question for Mr. Sheldon," Karp said. "We look forward to what he learns."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at [email protected] Follow @mikevansickler.

Comments
Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

WASHINGTON — A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being dep...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

CLEARWATER — Voters may not be too familiar with the name John Funk.So since launching his campaign for City Council Seat 5 against well-known incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, Funk said he has knocked on 2,000 doors to introduce himself. Before the March 13 ...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

CLEARWATER — By asking voters to elect him into office a fifth time, Hoyt Hamilton knows he’s now considered part of the old-guard. Born and raised in Clearwater, his family roots stretch back here more than 100 years. Hamilton, 59, spent nearly his ...
Published: 01/19/18

Q&A: Government shutdown looms. Here’s what you need to know

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown.Here’s what that means. Why would the government shut down?Every year, Congress has to approve laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for federal agen...
Published: 01/18/18
Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

REDINGTON SHORES — There will be no election this year, but the changeout of commission members that began last year will continue. When the new commission is sworn in this March, four of five members, including the mayor, will have changed within th...
Published: 01/18/18
Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker is opening a new chapter in his life. So far, the future remains an open book.The former two-term mayor announced Sunday that he’s resigning his position as president of the Edwards Group effective Jan. 31.Baker has worked...
Published: 01/18/18
Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

By Sheila Mullane EstradaTimes CorrespondentMADEIRA BEACH — Voters here can either end or continue the city’s divisive politics on March 13. They will also decide how the city grows.The two commission seats that now represent pro-growth and pro-devel...
Published: 01/18/18
Christie leaves as unpopular N.J. governor, but with no broken legs

Christie leaves as unpopular N.J. governor, but with no broken legs

TRENTON, N.J. — Republican Chris Christie left the New Jersey governor’s office with his popularity in tatters, but at least he didn’t break a leg. Christie is the first elected New Jersey governor in more than two decades not to suffer a broken leg ...
Published: 01/17/18
Ernest Hooper: Restoring rights after prison is about redemption, not politics

Ernest Hooper: Restoring rights after prison is about redemption, not politics

Desmond Meade says everywhere he goes in Florida, he hears the stories.From whites and blacks, conservatives and liberals, blue collar laborers and white collar wage earners. People from all walks have walked up to him with a common request.They’re c...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
23 seek vacant PSC post

23 seek vacant PSC post

There is another Mariano seeking a job in Tallahassee.Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano, the father of state Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, is seeking an appointment to the Florida Public Service Commission, the powerful board regulating Florida ...
Published: 01/16/18