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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Editorials

Endorsement: Sheldon in attorney general primary

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Two capable Democrats are vying for the unenviable task of challenging Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in November.

Bondi, a former Hillsborough prosecutor, has maintained a high profile and has raised more than $2.2 million for her campaign. She has no primary opponent.

Neither of the Democratic candidates — former lawmakers George Sheldon and Perry Thurston — have topped $300,000 in contributions yet, though they believe more support will come once the primary is settled.

In any event, defeating Bondi, who’s done good work fighting pill mills, synthetic drugs and human trafficking, will be a formidable task.

Still, as her opponents are quick to point out, her tenure has hardly been flawless.

It is hard to disagree with Sheldon’s assessment that Bondi has been far more political than past Florida attorney generals — and not simply because she rightly tried to fight Obamacare in court, a effort begun by her predecessor, Bill McCollum.

Her willingness to join other Republican attorneys general to fight the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, in particular, is troubling. Bondi and the others claim it’s an effort to protect states’ rights, that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority.

But the affected states went along with the plan. Moreover, the Clean Water Act’s authority has been and continues to be instrumental in reviving Florida waters, including Tampa Bay and the Everglades.

Sheldon and Thurston also criticize Bondi for once delaying an execution to attend a fundraiser and for leading the state’s legal fight against same-sex marriages.

Voters will determine how important such matters are to them in the fall. But now Democratic voters must decide between Thurston and Sheldon.

Both are qualified. Thurston, 53, is a Broward County native and former public defender who served as minority leader in the Florida House of Representatives.

We’ve known and respected Sheldon, 67, for many years. He grew up in Plant City, worked as a legislative aide to the late Gov. Reubin Askew and served effectively in the state House of Representatives from 1974 to 1982.

He was deputy to highly regarded Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

When former Gov. Charlie Crist later asked Butterworth to return to government to take over the troubled Department of Children and Families, Butterworth recruited Sheldon, who played a key role in reforming the agency.

Sheldon later succeeded Butterworth as DCF secretary, efficiently supervising the organization and working well with Republican lawmakers.

Sheldon faults Bondi for engaging in divisive issues, rather than focusing on safeguarding the public.

As a Democrat, he supports Obamacare, which he acknowledges needs revisions, and believes the state should accept the additional Medicaid offered by Washington.

But he believes the attorney general should work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on behalf of all Floridians and minimize the partisanship.

“The attorney general is supposed to be the people’s lawyer, not the Legislature’s lawyer,” he says.

Sheldon has shown he can operate effectively in Tallahassee. He has the experience and attitude for the job.

In the Democratic primary for Florida attorney general, The Tampa Tribune recommends George Sheldon.

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