Three Candidates Vie To Challenge Attorney General Bondi But Only One, A Libertarian, Is Guaranteed

Jul 28, 2014

Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer is running as the Libertarian Party of Florida candidate for Attorney General. Wohlsifer is challenging incumbent AG Pam Bondi (R).
Credit LHatter / WFSU News

Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer, the Libertarian candidate for state attorney general, wants to make sure voters understand his positions don’t amount to eliminating government control, just limiting it. That goes for everything from his support for gay marriage, to his lack of enthusiasm for Amendment Two: a proposed constitutional amendment to bring medical marijuana to Florida.

“I support medical marijuana in Florida, but I don’t think it goes far enough.”

Wohlsifer says he wrote a bill sponsored by a Democratic lawmaker this past legislative session that would have granted Floridians more access to medical marijuana, and he believes the state should approve the substance for recreational use. He also supports the open carry of handguns and wants to eliminate the federal War on Drugs. And if those ideas sound contradictory?

“Libertarians find themselves to the left of Democrats and to the right of Republicans depending on the issue," Wohlsifer says. "We’re motivated by principals and issues and the constitution—not party-line politics. There’s no surprise then, that libertarians don’t agree among themselves,"  he adds with a laugh.

But third-party candidates in Florida face an uphill battle for votes.

“I like third-party candidates, I like the idea of third party candidates, but I can’t see them having a serious impact on the race," said Florida State University Political Scientist Carol Weissert during a previous interview on third-party candidates.

“People say they like third-party candidates but they don’t want to waste their vote. They want to either vote for or against a candidate. The interesting thing about Florida is we don’t have a history of third-party candidates in the legislature, which would be easier races to win," she says.

Despite their disadvantage, Weissert says what third-party candidates can do, and do well, is influence the conversation during elections.

“It’s pretty easy to get on the ballot as a third party member in Florida. We’re one of the easiest states. It’s not a whole lot of effort to be on the party and you can make a push and get attention to your issue easier than you can do in other states," she says.

Wohlsifer is going up against incumbent Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose raised seven figures for her re-election race compared to Wohlsifer’s $20,000. He's undeterred by the money, and believes an increasing number of no-party affiliation and independent voters, gives him an in with the electorate. And if he can’t afford TV commercials? He can spread his message of limited government through the internet.

“Libertarians are good at it. We use social media very well. But it’s difficult. On the other hand, I don’t understand why  attorney general, the commissioner for agriculture and the state CEO have $2 million campaign budgets...all they’re going to do is spend it on annoying TV commercials," he says.

In the meantime, former Deputy Attorney General George Sheldon and State Representative Perry Thurston who term-limited out of the legislature this year, are vying to the be Democratic nominee in the race. Sheldon is appealing to voter’s by targeting a request by utility companies to drastically cut some energy conservation programs.  He’s trying to distinguish himself from Bondi with radio ads like the one below.

George Sheldon Radio ad

In a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Thurston says he wants Florida to be more progressive with its policies—like California. His bid for Attorney General has been has been endorsed by the St. Petersburg Mayor. But when it comes to fundraising, something Thurston, Sheldon or Wohlsifer can’t touch on the current attorney general, is money. Bondi has raised nearly $2.4 million, almost three times what her challengers have raised put together.