Sink is 1st to enter race for governor
By WILLIAM MARCH
Published: May 14, 2009
TAMPA – State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced Wednesday that she will run for governor next year, making her likely to become the first female major-party nominee for governor in Florida’s history.
No other well-known Democrats have announced interest in the race, and the party hopes to avoid a primary, resting its hopes to recapture the Florida governor’s mansion for the first time since 1998 on her shoulders.
"Our party is organized and energized to elect Alex Sink to the governor’s office," said Democratic state party chairwoman Karen Thurman.
That means the field of candidates for both parties for the 2010 governor’s race appears close to being set.
Top Republican Party officials are seeking to clear the field of any GOP challengers to Attorney General Bill McCollum, who’s expected to announce next week.
Republican Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, however, hasn’t given up his hopes of running, saying this week he’s still investigating whether to run and thinks a primary would be healthy for discussion of issues.
Gov. Charlie Crist announced this week that he will leave the governor’s office open at the end of his first term next year to run for the U.S. Senate.
In her campaign announcement, Sink promised change and emphasized her business acumen from nearly 30 years as a banker.
"Tallahassee’s tired old ways of doing business just aren’t enough to answer the urgent new challenges we face," she said. "For too long, we’ve had to tolerate a state government that puts playing politics ahead of helping families. Together, we can change all that, and give our state a fresh start."
Sink and her husband, lawyer Bill McBride, have long been Tampa’s foremost Democratic power couple, both involved in fundraising for Democratic candidates. Until this decade, however, they stayed out of electoral politics themselves.
In 2002, he ran unsuccessfully for governor; in 2006, she defeated former state Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon for the CFO seat.
As the CFO, she is the watchdog over state spending, managing billions in taxpayer dollars, overseeing 100 million accounting transactions a year, paying millions of bills and making sure contractors are doing the job before paying them.
The CFO also oversees cemeteries, hands out licenses to insurance companies, investigates insurance fraud, serves as the fire marshal, oversees workers’ compensation insurance and serves as a consumer advocate on insurance and banking issues.
She said she plans to continue as the state’s CFO while she runs for governor.
Sink, McCollum nearly tied
According to one recent poll, Sink and McCollum begin their race closely matched. A poll in early April by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research had them virtually tied with a large undecided vote – McCollum, 36 percent, Sink, 35 percent, and undecided, 29 percent.
McCollum looks slightly better in recent polling on voter approval of their performance in office.
A Quinnipiac University poll April 15 showed Sink with 33 percent approval, 22 percent disapproval and 46 percent "don’t know" responses.
The same poll showed McCollum with 48 percent approval, 18 percent disapproval and 34 percent "don’t know" responses.
McCollum, however, probably is better known statewide, after a long career in the U.S. House and two unsuccessful races for U.S. Senate, in 2000 and 2004.
"By the time we get to next year, plenty of people will know about me and what I stand for," Sink said of the gap in name recognition between her and McCollum.
Asked whether it would be an advantage to be the state’s first female major-party nominee for governor, she said, "I want to bring a new and different kind of leadership to the state: my business background, plus the fact that I’m a wife; I’ve been a working mom; I grew up on a farm."
Sink won’t be the first prominent Democratic female candidate for governor. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Lois Frankel, now West Palm Beach mayor, both sought the nomination in 2002, losing to McBride.
McCollum and Sink have tangled publicly recently over his use of state money to run ads promoting the attorney general’s anti-cybercrime program.
Democrats criticized the commercials because they prominently featured McCollum and were made by his previous campaign team. Sink suggested he was using state money to boost his image for political reasons.
North Carolina native
Sink, 60, grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina that had belonged to her great-grandfather, Chang Bunker, one of the original "Siamese twins."
She attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, then had a brief marriage during which she lived in West Africa and taught math.
She then began a long career with North Carolina National Bank, which through mergers became NationsBank and Bank of America, and became Florida head of the bank.
ADELAIDE "ALEX" SINK
Position: State chief financial officer
Born: June 4, 1948, Mount Airy, N.C.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in math, Wake Forest University, 1970
Career: 1970-73, high school math teacher in West Africa; 1974, hired by NationsBank; 1993-97, president of NationsBank Florida; 1997-98, head of NationsBank Private Client Group; 1998-2000, Florida president of NationsBank/Bank of America; 2006-present, Florida chief financial officer.
Family: Married to Bill McBride, Tampa lawyer who ran for governor in 2002; two children, Bert, a sophomore at Stanford University, and Lexi, a freshman at Wake Forest University.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. Reporter William March can be reached at (813) 259-7761.