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Alex Sink, woman of Florida political mystery


Will she or won’t she run?

Don’t ask Alex Sink. She sounds utterly unsure about whether she’ll run for governor. But the 2010 Democratic candidate and prior state CFO at least sounds sincere about it.

Sink acknowledges she's “tempted.”

“I go back and forth,” she said, adding she’ll decide by Oct. 25, when the state Democratic Party kicks off its state convention. “I really don’t know.”

The vacillation is understandable. Running for governor in a state as big, varied and divided as Florida is taxing. Gov. Rick Scott's team plays hardball. But Sink came so close to beating Scott in 2010 that perhaps it was inevitable she would reconsider a bid.

Sink is also conflicted about her potential rivals. She has an apparent affinity for former state Sen. Nan Rich, the only major announced Democratic candidate, and – more surprisingly so – former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat considering a run.

Yesterday, Sink seemed to actually boost Crist’s candidacy by implicitly suggesting he stood for the little guy and earned the enmity of the insurance industry, which might fund his opponents (background here).
Sink didn’t have to say anything remotely supportive of Crist.

And while she has previously questioned Crist’s Democratic conversion and sincerity, she also said she was happy he became a Democrat.

“I have publicly welcomed him to the Democratic Party, and on one hand share our values,” she said in July.

“But because of his prior record of not being supportive of some issues Democrats care a great deal about, he needs to explain and he needs to articulate and he needs to make an important policy speech. I think it’s a good idea that he’s going to write a book about what he believes in, why he believes in it, why he used to be a Republican, why he’s now a Democrat.

“We need to understand and feel comfortable that he clearly does share our values and that if he holds any elective office in the future that he’s going to be firm in his belief. He has to pass that mark.”

Sink said she’d “absolutely” buy and read Crist’s book.

While friendly, Sink and Crist certainly seem to be in a slow-motion rival stare down. Crist was expected to announce by Oct. 25 as well. Now it’s unsure. Crist is lining up support and meeting with potential donors.

One reason Crist hasn’t yet announced is that, once he does, he knows what Scott’s pollster, Tony Fabrizio, said Tuesday in Miami:  “Once he becomes a candidate, he has a big bull’s eye on his back. Bigger than the one he already has on his back. And not just from the Republican Party of Florida, but from the Democrats themselves. And if you think they’re happy about him, boy, you’re crazy. You know who’s happy about him? The Democrat power brokers who want power. The average rank and file voter, yeah, they want to beat Rick Scott. But they’re not sure they want to sell their souls to beat Rick Scott.”

Sink seemed an unlikely candidate months ago (I described her as such, and I'm prepared to be wrong). But the unexpected death of her husband, 2002 gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, earlier this year made her reconsider a run. So did a number of Democrats uneasy or upset with Crist. They include former U.S. Rep. and Senate candidate Kendrick Meek and former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis. Crist beat Davis in 2006 to become governor, and stayed in the Senate race as an independent in 2010, when Bill Clinton's team tried to force an unhappy Meek out. Marco Rubio won that race.

Sink said a problem with a Crist candidacy is that it changes the focus of the 2014 election.

“It’s not personal,” she said. “It’s a recognition that if he’s our nominee, the race becomes more about Charlie Crist than it does about Rick Scott. And the race needs to be about this governor and his record and how he’s not leading and is a very ineffective.”

Scott’s team will take issue with that, noting the unemployment rate is down and jobs are up along with real-estate prices.

Meantime, tomorrow, she’s heading to Mount Airy, N.C., to celebrate her dad’s 90th birthday.

“I’ll get a lot of advice,” she said with a laugh.