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Joe Henderson

Henderson: Bondi opens the door for election challenge

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Published:   |   Updated: October 22, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Democrat George Sheldon announced Monday his candidacy to be Florida’s attorney general in 2014. If this had happened three months ago, that news that would have been taken with a shrug, followed by a quick turn to the sports page.

Sheldon is a competent administrator who served as deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth. Still, not long ago the likelihood incumbent Pam Bondi would receive a serious challenge to her re-election next year seemed as remote as Greg Schiano winning NFL Coach of the Year.

She took the lead in the state’s fight against the Affordable Care Act (see Care, Obama), which rocketed her into the national spotlight. However you feel about that, it did get her high-profile face time at the Republican National Convention. She was raising oodles of cash to squash any would-be challenger.

Yep, the hometown girl from Tampa was on her way.

But that was before her ethically challenged move of asking for an execution to be postponed so she could attend a fund-raiser.

She apologized, but the evening did net close to $140,000 in Bondi bucks.

The Tampa Bay Times then reported there are also questions about her campaign’s relationship with Donald Trump. The Donald is under fire from the New York state attorney general for his association with “get-rich-quick” seminars and “sham” for-profit colleges. Some of the allegations have connections in Florida, and Bondi said she was reviewing the case.

Well, others are reviewing the $25,000 one of Trump’s foundations made to And Justice For All, a political committee with Bondi’s re-election in mind.

An attorney general, of all people, can’t afford even the hint of impropriety. That doesn’t mean her campaign is doomed, though.

While the execution move twas a gaffe of the highest order, and I think you’ll be seeing it about 10,000 times in campaign ads before November 2014, any challenger to Bondi faces long odds.

That may be especially true for Sheldon, who resigned his post with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to run for this job.

He lost to Charlie Crist by 7 percent in 2000 to be the state’s education commissioner. He got smoked in a Democratic primary for attorney general in 2002.

“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,” Sheldon said in his campaign announcement on his Facebook page.

“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.”

To be fair, Bondi has been aggressive against some of the banks that helped create the housing crisis. She has tried to raise awareness of human trafficking as an issue.

She also left the door open to a challenge.

To find the reason why a race that should be a breeze might turn into a battle, she doesn’t have to ask a lot of questions. A glance in the mirror will do.

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