TALLAHASSEE — A Miami lawyer is challenging the residency of George Sheldon, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, saying he’s ineligible to hold office.
Jessica A. Elliott filed her complaint Thursday in Leon County circuit court, online dockets show.
In that filing, Elliott says she’s challenging Sheldon’s residency because he did not live in Florida for the entire seven years before election, as required by the state constitution.
She’s suing now, her complaint says, “to ensure that the Democratic Party’s nominee for Attorney General is constitutionally eligible to assume office and is not subject to a successful post-election contest based on ineligibility.”
Sheldon said he hadn’t received a copy of the suit and could not comment. He added, however, that he would welcome a court’s determination of his qualifications.
The Florida Constitution says that “when elected, the governor, lieutenant governor and each cabinet member must … (have) resided in the state for the preceding seven years.”
Sheldon lived in Washington, D.C., from 2011-13 while working as acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Moreover, during that time he didn’t complete the required continuing legal education requirements required by The Florida Bar.
As a result, his law license was temporarily inactivated.
But the constitution also says the attorney general “must have been a member of the bar of Florida for the preceding five years.”
Sheldon later asked for and received an exemption from the continuing legal education requirement because he was out of state.
Sheldon has said he never intended to give up his Florida residency. He didn’t change his Florida voter registration, driver’s license or homestead exemption while in D.C.
Elliott, who declined to comment Friday through a spokesman, said in her complaint that Sheldon can’t have it both ways: His continuing legal education exemption “is available only to a ‘non-resident’ member of the Florida Bar.”
Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer, the Libertarian candidate for attorney general, said he too had been considering a challenge of Sheldon’s residency.
“I really think Mr. Sheldon has a problem” defending his residency, he said. “Nothing personal. He’s been a great public servant.”
Sheldon, 67, grew up in Plant City. He formerly served as head of the state Department of Children and Families and was a deputy attorney general under Democrat Bob Butterworth.