Don’t count her out of the 2014 governor’s race, says Tampa’s Alex Sink.
In a Tribune interview, Sink acknowledged that she suffered a setback in her consideration of the race, the death of her husband Bill McBride, but that doesn’t mean she’s through.
Sink said she’s working through a decision process and will decide “this summer.” She wouldn’t be any more specific about the timing.
And she said recent news stories dismissing her as a possible candidate were wrong.
“The message is that I’d say, given what I’ve been through in the last several months, now is not the time to make a life-changing decision one way or the other,” Sink said.
“Where my head is, it’s not time for me to close the door to the possibility. Different people have interpreted what I’ve said in different ways, but right now it’s time for me to be focusing on taking care my kids and myself and dealing with the terrible loss of Bill.”
McBride, a Tampa lawyer, political donor and fundraiser for Florida Democratic candidates, and a 2002 candidate for governor, died suddenly Dec. 22 after a history of problems.
Sink, a retired banking executive and major Democratic fundraiser in her own right, was elected state chief financial officer in 2006 and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010 against Gov. Rick Scott.
She acknowledged her husband’s death took away one of the main support pillars for her political career.
“He wanted me to run again, but he said don’t rush a decision, wait until next summer,” she said. “He was my most trusted adviser. That weighs heavily on my mind.
“The only reason I haven’t said ‘absolutely not’ is I wake up every day and I see how ineffective this governor (Scott) is … Somebody needs to step up to the plate. That, plus the men and women who stop me every day and ask me to consider running.”
In a February interview with The Associated Press, Sink spoke about how McBride’s death had at least temporarily taken some wind out of her sails.
“That's changed everything," she said at the time. "Right this minute, if you're asking me, it's off the table. I'm not prepared to say, `No I'm not,' but I'm much further away from a run today than I was three months ago."
At the same time, some local Sink backers were saying, usually in background conversations, that she seemed to have lost enthusiasm for the race.
That led to several stories about the field of potential Democratic candidates that dismissed Sink, focusing on former Gov. Charlie Crist.
“I definitely think they were wrong,” Sink said of those stories, although she said the AP story was “very accurately reported.”
“Other reporters read (the AP) article and put their own spin on it. The bottom line is I have not shut the door.”
Sink said she’s “continuing to be in touch with the sources of support in Washington and Florida” for what would be a tough race against Scott, who may put scores of millions of his own money into a campaign.
“It’s going to take a lot of money,” she said. “You can’t run a little $20 million campaign and go up against the Republican machine and a candidate who can right a check for that.
“The special interest money is not going to want to play with a challenger until the very end if they see the challenger being successful,” she said.
Sink recently visited the Washington offices of Emily’s List, speaking to leaders of the organization, which provides financial backing for Democratic women candidates, and had dinner in Tampa with Emily’s List staffers.
She also spoke last week to the Greater Pinellas Democratic Club, giving some members the impression she was considering the race.
“I’m more apt now to think she’ll run,” said club member Mary Freeman, who was featured in a 2010 Sink campaign ad. “She was friendly and open and greeted everyone in the room, and seemed quite happy. Everybody asked her if she was running, and she was very non-committal.”
Former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston is the only prominent Democrat with a campaign up and running, although insiders speculate Crist may announce a run soon after the end of the state legislative session in early May.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has said he won’t run.
Several others are considered potential candidates, including former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, former state Sen. Dan Gelber and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, but none has statewide name recognition as Crist and Sink do.
“We’re all sort of waiting to see what both Alex Sink and Charlie Crist do,” said Gelber. “They’ve earned that level of deference.”