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As Florida Attorney General Race Shapes Up, Is Libertarian Candidate Getting Left Out?

Sascha Cordner
Bill Wohlsifer, Libertarian Candidate for Attorney General

The Attorney General Race is starting to shape up ahead of the November election. Republican incumbent Pam Bondi has released her first ad and Democratic nominee George Sheldon’s latest endorsement from some moderate GOP. But, is the Libertarian candidate getting left out of the race with two candidates from established parties?

A new ad promoting Attorney General Pam Bondi’s pill mill efforts just recently started circulating in major media markets across Florida. “Streets” is Bondi’s first ad, and it highlights her ongoing fight to combat prescription drug abuse.

“As a prosecutor, I’ve seen crime and brutality fueled by drugs. As Attorney General, I banned synthetic forms of heroin and acid that are poisoning our kids. And, with our amazing law enforcement, we closed down the pill mills. Of the top 100 oxycodone-­‐dispensing doctors in this country, 98 of them lived in Florida.  Today, there are none.”

Meanwhile, none of her opponents have begun to circulate any TV ads as yet, including Sheldon, who says he’s waiting to release one much closer to the November election.

As for his thoughts on Bondi’s first ad, Dem nominee Sheldon accused the Republican incumbent of taking credit for leading the pill mill effort that was led by the FDA and initially opposing a prescription drug monitoring database.

But, in an e-mail, spokesman for Bondi’s campaign Trey Stapleton pointed to a 2011 Sun-Sentinel article that he says not only shows that she supported the database, she was also the person who fought to create it. He also pointed to a New York Times article that makes no mention of the FDA’s involvement and states the actions taken in Florida made the Sunshine State the model for combatting pill mills.

Still, despite his earlier comments, Sheldon called it a a good ad.

“It was a good ad,” said Sheldon. “But, she couldn’t run an ad on her position on medical marijuana…trying to deceive the people of Florida on medical marijuana. She couldn’t run her ad on trying to deny women on the right to contraceptives. She couldn’t run an ad on marriage equality. So, pill mills is the logical thing to do. But, when she does something right, I think we ought to point that out, but when she doesn’t, I think we have a responsibility to the people of Florida.”

Sheldon made his comments at a recent unveiling of a new effort he’s working on in reaching out to moderate Republicans. He’s already received the endorsement of some of them, including Mary Ann Stiles.  She’s a Tampa attorney, who used to work for business-backed group Associated Industries of Florida, while Sheldon was working for the state. Stiles says while she and Sheldon don’t agree on everything, she believes he’s the best candidate for the job.

And, she says she disagrees with Bondi’s stance on a number of issues, including the gay marriage ban. Speaking to reporters last month about her decision to defend it, Bondi says it’s because she’s taken an oath to defend Florida’s Constitution.

“It doesn’t matter what the issue is…voters six years ago by over 62-percent, I believe, passed this. You all know, how I feel about the marijuana issue because I challenged the amendment language in front of the Supreme Court—the ballot initiative. The Supreme Court disagreed. So, it will be on the ballot. But, if It passes and the Supreme Court has said it it’s constitutional; therefore, I’ll defend it because that’s my job as Attorney General.”

But, Stiles says, “I know she has to uphold the laws of the state of Florida, and that’s expected. The problem is to what degree do you work to uphold them?”

Plus, she adds Sheldon gets her vote because, “he has more experience. He has served as Assistant Attorney General under Bob Butterworth.”

But, Libertarian Candidate Bill Wohlsifer, a Tallahassee lawyer, begs to differ.

“I’ve practice in varied areas of law,” said Wohlsifer. “I run a statewide law practice. I’m in court probably more than the other two combined. I’m a litigator. I’m a hands on, real active practicing attorney, not a career politician. I’m at the end of my career, and I’m looking to serve the state in a public capacity.”

Probably the least well-known in the race, the 60-year-old says he doesn’t feel left out, though he admits he does get less coverage competing with two candidates from more well-known parties.

“At times, it does,” he admitted. “I mean it’s gotten better. I’ve been invited to all these debates without having to rant and rave to be invited, and that’s certainly respected and welcomed and I look forward to participating in them. But, I haven’t been left out to the degree that other third party candidates have. I’ve been pretty well included.”

On a low budget, he says while he doesn’t have the money to pay for TV ads, he does have youtube videos, talking about some of his platforms, like the legalization of marijuana among other topics.

According to the latest poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, Bondi is in the lead with about 43-percent of the vote, while her Democratic opponent Sheldon has 35-percent. Wohlsifer has six-percent, but he says he’s not too worried about turnout—thanks to the medical marijuana issue on the ballot.

“I think Amendment 2 is going to create a huge turnout. I think people are going to come out that don’t normally vote. They’re going to come out to vote for Amendment 2 because they know there are people who can benefit from medicinal marijuana and when they vote for Amendment 2, they’re going to vote for me,” said Wohlsifer.

All three candidates have confirmed a debate in October that will air in Orlando and Tampa. Sheldon is hoping Bondi will do at least four more, and a spokesman for Bondi’s campaign she’s still in the process of reviewing the other debate invitations. Wohlsifer says he plans to debate as much as he can, and has signed on to do a forum at Florida Atlantic University.

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