George Sheldon, a one-time top official in the Obama administration, easily defeated state Rep. Perry Thurston on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for attorney general.
Sheldon moves on to the November ballot where he will challenge Republican incumbent Pam Bondi and Libertarian candidate Bill Wohlsifer. With 45 percent of precincts reporting, Sheldon led Thurston 62 to 38 percent.
The 67-year-old Sheldon has had several stints in state government, including spending time working under Bob Butterworth, who was the last Democrat to hold the position of attorney general. He was also secretary of the Department of Children and Families under former Gov. Charlie Crist.
But he could have an uphill battle against Bondi whose campaign and political committee has already raised more than $3.5 million. Sheldon raised slightly less than $500,000 for her primary campaign but spent nearly all of it in his quest for the nomination.
Bondi, who has is well-known in conservative circles due to her unsuccessful legal campaign against President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, will likely get extra help from the Republican Party of Florida. She plans to emphasize her work against prescription drug abuse
The Democratic primary was a low-profile campaign where the two rivals largely refrained from criticizing each other directly. Instead they were united in their unfailing criticism of Bondi and the job she has done since taking office in 2011.
Both Sheldon and Thurston sharply criticized her for opposing a medical marijuana amendment on the November ballot as well as her fight to retain the state’s ban on same sex marriage.
Sheldon has faulted Bondi’s decision to refrain from getting actively involved in utility rate cases – a turnaround from the practice that was common among previous attorneys general including two Republicans.
“My view of the office of attorney general is that it really ought to be the people’s lawyer not the governor’s lawyer or the Legislature’s lawyer,” Sheldon said.
This is Sheldon’s second run for statewide office. He lost to Crist in the 2000 election for education commissioner, which was an elected position at the time.