Florida’s Division of Elections has repeatedly said that it has no authority in establishing whether a candidate meets the qualifications of office.
But don’t tell those angling to get Democratic Attorney General candidate George Sheldon thrown off the ballot because of a technicality. (Psssst: They also happen to be supporters of Sheldon's Democratic opponent in the Aug. 27 primary, Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale).
A Miami-Dade attorney specializing in elder care filed a lawsuit Friday against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the Division of Elections, and Sheldon.
The attorney, Jessica Elliott, (pictured) claims Sheldon’s residency status, which last week raised questions about whether he had been a resident of Florida the past seven years, is enough to disqualify him.
Detzner should decide because he's responsible for accepting qualifying documents from candidates, the lawsuit states. If true, that would might leave Thurston the lone Democrat in the race to square off against Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi in the Nov. 4 general election. But a Secretary of State spokeswoman, however, has stated that's not Detzner's job. Asked for comment about the lawsuit, she said she couldn't comment on pending litigation.
Why would Elliott claim an interest in the race?
According to the man who contacted the media about the lawsuit, media consultant Christopher Norwood, it’s because she’s a registered Democrat, an attorney, and practices in elder care.
“Her statement speaks for itself,” Norwood said.
Elliott wouldn’t return phone calls seeking comment. Norwood said she wouldn’t be interviewed. But he did provide a couple of statements that he says were uttered by her.
“(Sheldon) is not seeing the damage his candidacy is doing to our party going forward,” Elliott said in Norwood’s statement. “Mr. Sheldon’s presence in this race will become a sideshow to the real issues affecting Justice for Women and Minorities, Justice for the Elderly and Justice for the Uninsured and Access for Health Care. This election is far more important than any one Democrat’s desire for office.”
"Jessica enjoys reading, history and movies and the unique opportunities that living in South Florida offers, especially the beach," according to her bio on Eldery Care Law Firm's website. "Jessica loves to travel but considers Miami home. One of her goals is to travel to all fifty states and she is almost halfway there. She is also a trivia buff and hopes you will see her on Jeopardy!"
A woman at the law firm said Elliott no longer works there.
And who’s Norwood?
He’s a member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Black Caucus and a spokesman for the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, which has, as one of its missions, getting black candidates elected.
Was he working on behalf of that mission, or for Thurston’s campaign?
“Absolutely not,” Norwood said. “This is unrelated. And I might point out that the suit was filed by an Anglo-American attorney. We’re trying to clarify whether George Sheldon is qualified to be a candidate.”
Sheldon says he is and will stay in the race.
Thurston has had residency issues of his own, which is one possible reason he’s been quiet on this issue. But his friends have picked up the slack. Last week, Henry Crespo, president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, asked that Sheldon step aside.
Crespo works with Nortwood in the black caucus, but Norwood said his interest in this case has nothing to do with the black caucus position. It’s strictly protecting the interests of Democrats. Elliott, in other words, is no plant.
“She wants to make sure that the person she votes for can hold office,” Norwood said.