George Sheldon, who served as secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families under Gov. Charlie Crist, said Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Sheldon on Friday quit his $179,000 job as the assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families in Washington. In a 10-hour drive on Saturday, Sheldon said he called potential donors to raise the money he'll need to take on Bondi, who has already raised $1.4 million.
"I've got to be competitive from a dollar standpoint," Sheldon said. "I can't be outspent 3-1, or even 2-1."
A former legislative aide to then-state senator Reubin Askew, Sheldon served in the Legislature from 1974 to 1982. He served as deputy attorney general for former Attorney General Bob Butterworth from 1999 to 2002. He ran against Crist in 2000 for Education Commissioner and lost. In 2000, he ran for Attorney General but came in third in the Democratic primary, which was won by Buddy Dyer, who is now the Orlando mayor. Dyer lost to Crist.
"Now he's a Democrat," Sheldon joked. "It's ironic that I ran against Charlie and then later served as his secretary (of DCF)."
Sheldon said he's announcing now because he wants to take advantage of this weekend's Florida Democratic Party State Conference, where he will be introduced as a speaker by his former boss, Butterworth.
Sheldon, 66, said he'll make Bondi's opposition of the Affordable Care Act and concerns raised about her fundraising top issues in his campaign.
"I clearly think that Pam Bondi hasn't shown a serious approach to her job that I think she should," Sheldon said.
Here's his statement:
"This past Friday I officially resigned as Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of Health and Human Services and today I am announcing my candidacy for Attorney General for Florida.
"As Deputy Attorney General for Bob Butterworth I know the potential that office holds for protecting our families and taking on any one or any corporation that would threaten us.
"Taking on predatory lenders, human traffickers, and those who engage in deceptive practices is the job of the Attorney General…not working full time trying to deny health insurance to children and anyone with preexisting conditions.
"This race is about character. Who has the experience and character to use the office of attorney general for general good rather than as a personal, political, partisan platform.
"I hope you agree that my experience in Florida's Attorney General office, serving as Secretary of Children and Families in Florida, and as Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of Health and Human Services allows me to serve as Florida's Attorney General.
"I'm proud that children and families have been in my job title for almost a decade and that protecting has been a job description.
"It is time to restore integrity in the Attorney General office. Together we can do it. I ask for your vote, your help, your time and your prayers. Together we can restore character to the office of attorney general."
Upon the announcement, Bondi's campaign manager, Pablo Diaz, released a statement.
"As Florida's Attorney General, Pam Bondi has fought hard to defend and protect the people by making Florida a zero tolerance state for pill mills, taking on human trafficking, and pursuing consumer relief from both, mortgage and Medicaid fraud.
Pam Bondi and George Sheldon have very different credentials and points of view, and we welcome the opportunity to show the voters in Florida that they will have a clear choice between two distinctly different candidates."
Sheldon provided this bio:
Acting Assistant Secretary for children and Families, US Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, 2011-13
Secretary, Florida Department of Children and Families, 2010-12
Assistant Secretary for Operations, Florida Department of Children and Families, 2009-10
Associate Dean, St. Thomas University Law School, 2003-09
Stiles, Taylor, Grace, 2002-2003
Deputy Attorney General for Central Florida, 1999-2002
Sheldon, Cusick and Associates, 1987-99
Levine, Freedman, Hirsch and Levinson, 1982-87
State Representative, District 69 representing Tampa, 1974-82
Executive Director, Hillsborough Association for Retarded Citizens, 1973-75
Assistant to the Deputy Secretary, Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, 1971-72
Legislative Aide to then-Senator Reubin Askew, 1969-70