Alex Sink still undecided about second bid for Governor

03/22/12 Janelle Irwin
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The big question on the minds of Suncoast Tiger Bay Club members was, ‘Will Alex Sink run for Governor again?’” And Thursday, Sink’s answer at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club was the same as it has been for months: never say never. Sink said right now she’s focused on making a difference in Florida as a private citizen.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink told attendees of the packed Tiger Bay meeting that she doesn’t care that she’s not the Governor because she can make a difference from outside Tallahassee.

“I want to build a legacy at the Florida Next Foundation. We do not have a policy foundation in this state that is ideologically moderate to progressive and we need that. We need that alternative voice to – when the Governor says ‘well, the Reason Foundation thinks fast trains are a bad idea’ – that we could have stood up and said ‘oh no, you’re not right, let us show you the research that says we have tremendous economic impact from high speed rail’.”

But she is so used people questioning her intentions for a second bid against Rick Scott, she asked – and answered – the question before anyone else could. Her reluctance to commit to a simple yes or a no leaves room for speculation. Karen Coale, vice president of the St. Petersburg area League of Women Voters, believed Sink’s claims that she’s focusing on her non-partisan think tank.

“Well, from what I heard today I came to the conclusion, she’s not going to run this year, but she’s not going to say never again.”

St. Petersburg city council member Wengay Newton disagrees.

“I think the work she’s doing with the organization is more to stay relevant and stay connected. I mean, she is abreast of all the recent issues that are happening throughout this state and that’s not by accident.”

One thing is certain. Sink is throwing herself into influencing political policy. Right now, one of her main focuses with the six-month-old Florida Next Foundation is on education.

“We have to start, really, with four-year-olds because the research says that if we provide quality pre-K experience for the four-year-olds so that they truly are ready to read by the third grade, we’ll have a lot fewer problems after that.”

She said she was appalled when she heard the news that Republican state Senator JD Alexander was pushing for a cut to more than half of USF Tampa’s budget. But what bothered her more was that $400 million was being cut across all of Florida’s public universities. Sink thinks lawmakers can do better to both keep and attract what she calls the best and brightest.

“We want to bring the best thinking from around the world and around the country and begin to do some programming with thought leaders in this state and begin to put more pressure and have more influence over how these dollars are spent.”

And when it was her turn to ask a question, former Suncoast Tiger Bay Club president, Beverly Mitlin, brought up what she called a gross attack on women’s health.

“It’s been all over the country; every GOP legislator, and mostly men. What stupidity. They have wives, they have mothers, they have sisters, they have daughters. How stupid could you be? They’re stupid.”

Sink’s response was almost as colorful.

“And they want to be in the bedroom and in my doctor’s office with me? No. You know what? The American people are not buying this and particularly women. The gender gap is way up high. I heard 14 points. Women are not going to forget what’s been going on in the Republican presidential primary. For those of you who are Republicans in the room, you better get your party straight because it’s not right for America, it’s not right for people and it’s not what we need to be focused on right now.”

Another member, political blogger Peter Schorsch, asked her about the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford. In that case, the shooter claimed he shot in self defense, which is disputed. Sink took a somber moment before getting a little angry and then said as a mother, her heart bleeds for his family.

“If this had been a black man with a gun shooting a young 17-year-old white boy, there would be now doubt that the shooter would be in jail today and would be charged with a crime. So, you wouldn’t be getting some made up statement from the press shop of the Governor.”

Sink highlighted some other topics her foundation is working on. She called Florida, “FILO” in the recession – or, first in, last out. She explained, that’s because the state relies heavily on its tourism industry that has taken a hit by a nationwide economic slump. She said Florida Next is concentrating on finding ways to break that cycle.

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