In the race for Florida’s next chief financial officer, Republican state senator Tom Lee leads Democrat opponent Alex Sink in the polls by a healthy 12 points. That could be because banker Sink is relatively unknown while Lee has led the state senate as president for the past two years. Today both candidates met at a Tiger Bay Club event in St Petersburg for their first debate ever. While the pair spent most of their time talking about property insurance, the differences couldn’t be any starker.

We must apologise for the sound quality, which is quite bad due to faulty equipment.

State senator Tom Lee pushed his 10-year career as a state politician.


Alex Sink countered that her 26-year experience as a banker and not as a politician leaves her untainted.


The role of CFO is a new one to Florida. Currently held by failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher, the office was created four years ago. That newness means that voters are not quite sure what responsibilities the CFO has. The chief financial officer’s two duties most relevant to this race include being in charge of the state budget and regulating the state’s beleaguered insurance industry. Sink and Lee both talked about their plans.

Throughout the debate, Sink positioned herself as having the advantage as a political outsider. She took shots at the legislature’s record on insurance, with the subtext that Tom Lee as leader of the Senate contributed to the insurance crisis.


In his defense, Lee said the insurance bill Sink referred to had been discussed in the legislature and in public for months before the vote.


As a the former Florida president of Bank of America, Sink was responsible for managing 40 billion dollars and overseeing more than 9 thousand employees at 800 branches. She says her experience in the financial world make her the best candidate for CFO. She said she wants better oversight of contracted services.


Tom Lee ran a family business building homes in East Hillsborough. He says this experience along with his political track record are the perfect combination for the role of CFO.


But Sink said that Lee’s experience is not good enough to balance out the background’s of the members of the state cabinet, which is made up of the Governor, the attorney general, the agriculture commissioner and the CFO.

ACT: two lawyers, rancher … who’s going to be that fourth person?

Alex Sink says with her finance background she’s the best person to balance out the cabinet. Tom Lee says it takes more than just financial knowledge to run the state’s department of financial services – it takes political finesse.

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