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Why Securing Both Gov., Attorney General Wins Could Be Big For Florida Democrats

Charlie Crist's twitter
Democratic nominee for Attorney General George Sheldon (left) campaigning with Charlie Crist (right) in Plant City on Labor Day.

A win by Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist would not only make state history, it would be big for Democrats, who haven’t had a member of their own party serve in the gubernatorial seat since the late 1990s. So, what would an Attorney General win mean for the party and the Crist ticket?

Back during the 2000 election, Florida still elected state education commissioners. Then, Republican Charlie Crist ran against Democrat George Sheldon for the job. The following is one of the ads approved by Crist during the campaign.

Crist later won that election. But, after he became Governor, Crist later appointed his former opponent to head the Florida Department of Children and Families in 2008.

Now, that Crist is the Democratic nominee for Governor, he’s been campaigning alongside Sheldon, the Dem nominee for Attorney General.

“And, Crist and I have had some very good conversations about working together on turnout, running really a coordinated campaign. As he said yesterday’s [Monday] event, it’s not just about electing a Governor, you’ve got to get an Attorney General as well,” said Sheldon, speaking recently at a press conference in Tallahassee.

Sheldon was referring to campaigning with Crist on Labor Day. He also took part in an all-day rally with Crist and other Florida Democrats to help show solidarity between the Dems.

Sheldon says it’s pretty clear to him and Crist that having another top elected official as a Democrat would be a major help.

“A third of our government in Florida is run by the Governor and Cabinet,” continued Sheldon. “And, I think Governor Crist doesn’t want to be outvoted on his own Cabinet. You get an Attorney General? That’s about the trustees and the Internal Improvement Fund! That’s about the Everglades! You get an Attorney General and a Governor? That’s about automatic restoration of felons civil rights, which Bob Butterworth and Charlie Crist put into place.”

In 2011, Scott and the Cabinet reversed a decision by Crist when he was Governor to automatically restore the civil rights for nonviolent felons upon their release from prison. Instead, ex-felons now have to wait a minimum of five years before they could apply to get their rights back, which includes voting.

And, Sheldon says that’s disappointing, and it’s a change that must be rectified.

“And, the first thing that this incumbent Governor and the incumbent Attorney General did was repeal that within the first month of getting elected. You get a Charlie Crist and a George Sheldon, you will see that happen in the early days,” he added.

The Cabinet is chaired by the Governor and has three members: the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Agriculture Commissioner. Including Scott, the current Cabinet consists of Republicans, and they’ve generally voted together during their meetings.

According to Cabinet officials, while there may be a bit more disagreement when they meet as the Board of Executive Clemency, overall they’ve voted mostly the same.

But, that may all change if two Democrats win the general election, according to USF political scientist Susan MacManus.

“Because the other two Cabinet members are likely to be the two incumbent Republicans, Adam Putnam, the Commissioner of agriculture, and Jeff Atwater, the Chief Financial Officer,” MacManus. “It doesn’t look like they’ll be defeated. So, should Sheldon win...on some Cabinet issues, having another Democrat on the Cabinet would allow him to at least to have occasions where if the Attorney General had the same opinion as the Governor, that they could vote together and the tie goes to the Governor.”

And MacManus points to what she calls another advantage.

“Governors and legislators can often ask the Attorney General about opinions about things and can certainly ask the Attorney General what lawsuits to pursue and when the state should intervene. So, certainly, it would be to a Democratic Governor’s advantage to have another Democrat on the Cabinet,” she added.

Still, she says it’s too early to tell who may win the general election. She says if the election were to be held now, Attorney General Pam Bondi would likely win with more name recognition. But, she says a lot can happen between now and November. Sheldon will not only face off against the Republican incumbent, he also has another opponent, Libertarian candidate Bill Wohlsifer.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.