Alex Sink Banks on Women's Vote in Gubernatorial Race
Around the State
UPDATED: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is running under the radar while Republican rivals Bill McCollum and Rick Scott bloody each other for the right to face her Nov. 2.
Is the lady in waiting in danger of waiting too long to rev up her campaign machine and get her name out there?
Sink, the state's chief financial officer, appears comfortable with her fund-raising at least. Setting a goal of collecting at least $1 million each quarter, Sink's staff said she met and surpassed that objective in the latest reporting period.
"She raised $6 million by end of first quarter and had $5 million in the bank -- the most of any Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida history," Sink spokeswoman Kyra Jennings said Monday.
Jennings said the campaign would release its second-quarter figures by "the middle of the week."
While McCollum and Scott spend multimillions, Sink has the Democratic field pretty much to herself. Her lone primary opponent is Brian P. Moore, a Spring Hill resident who was the Socialist Party's candidate for president in 2008.
As of March 31, Sink reporting having $1.2 million more in the bank than McCollum. That gap has since widened, with McCollum's reserves reportedly shrinking to $800,000 in recent weeks as the attorney general tries to fend off Scott.
Scott, spending some $20 million of his own money, did not enter the race until the second quarter.
Jennings said Sink's campaign will begin raising its profile Aug. 15, when the CFO embarks on a "Women's Week of Action."
"We're fully staffed-up now. Starting Aug. 15, we're going to be engaging women across the state with house parties and events," Jennings said.
Whether the GOP nominee is McCollum or Scott, Sink strategists calculate that the women's vote will be crucial in the general election. Florida has never elected a female governor.
Thus far, Sink, a former president of Florida operations for Bank of America, has stressed her business background -- not her gender. Unlike prototypical Democrats at the national level, she has emphasized fiscal conservatism and cost-cutting initiatives during her nearly four years as CFO.
Yet, stylistically and politically, Sink could be in danger of sinking into obscurity, much as her husband, Bill McBride, did in his unsuccessful run for governor in 2002, when he was swamped by Jeb Bush.
Soft-spoken and deliberate, Sink does not whip crowds into a frenzy. Though clearly cerebral, she's made some embarrassing gaffes on the campaign trail, such as the time she confused the University of Central Florida with the University of South Florida, eliciting hoots from students.
Without charisma and a well-oiled campaign organization, even the sharpest policy papers may not help a candidate who lacks name recognition or a high-profile office.
"Ideally, you want to humanize (the candidate) earlier in the process," said Rick Wilson, a GOP campaign consultant based in Tallahassee.
While admitting a partisan bias (though not working for McCollum or Scott), Wilson said a female-oriented campaign may only take Sink so far.
"There's a poison pill lurking," Wilson said. "It's the little old ladies who totter into the polling booth and say, 'Oh, Lawton Chiles is running, I'll vote for him.'
"These are Democrats that Sink should have. Even Bud's 5 percent -- and that's the low end -- makes Sink's election highly problematic," Wilson said.
A July 7-11 poll by Reuters/Ipsos showed Chiles drawing 13 percent of the vote in a race against Scott or McCollum and Sink. Sink garnered 31 percent -- edging McCollum by a percentage point and losing to Scott by three points.
Chiles, whose father never lost an election over four decades and served as a Democratic governor from 1991 until his death in 1998, is running as a No Party Affiliation candidate. Waging a shoestring campaign with no funding to speak of, the son's Nov. 2 ballot line will look almost like Dad reincarnated: "Lawton 'Bud' Chiles."
Undaunted, Sink is staying her deliberate course.
“I’m actually very excited and enthusiastic about where we are right now,” Sink told South Florida blogger Joy-Ann Reid recently. “We’re exactly in the right place at the right time.”
Reid, a Democratic commentator and consultant, said Sink "may be onto something. The more radical the national and state Republican Party have become, and the more glaring the scandals in the Florida GOP, the better Sink is starting to look. It’s quite possible, in this age of hyperbolic, histrionic, angry politics, that Sink might just be the right mild-tempered moderate at the right time."
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.