Alex Sink understands high-stakes politics.
Sink, a Democrat, became the first woman to win a major-party nomination for Governor in 2010, but she narrowly lost to Rick Scott. Sink’s late husband, Bill McBride, also ran for the state’s top office in 2002 but lost to Jeb Bush.
Sink is also the only Democrat to win a Florida statewide election in this century when she beat Tom Lee in the race for Chief Financial Officer in 2006.
So, when she says she knows what Gwen Graham faces in her campaign to be Florida’s next Governor, it carries considerable weight.
“There is still the woman factor,” Sink said. “I don’t know if Florida will elect a woman to the highest office in the state because we never have. She has to get through a primary first. She has to look at those pockets of voters who would naturally be inclined to support her and make sure they turn out on Election Day.
“My advice for the primary would be to focus on her two or three strongest issues that appeal to voters, especially those who are concerned about the right of privacy and the right of a woman to control her own body.”
Sink endorsed Graham earlier this week, which wasn’t a surprise, since Ruth’s List, a group Sink helped found, endorsed Graham earlier this year. She is the only woman among the candidates in either major party.
Ruth’s List was formed, as its website says, to build “ … a progressive Florida by recruiting and assisting pro-choice Democratic women to successfully run for public office in Tallahassee, in county commissions, in city councils, and in other key positions around Florida.”
Winning the Governor’s mansion after 20 years of Republican control would be a major coup for that movement. But the main thing, Sink said, is for a Democrat to win.
“I’ve been, like most Democrats, looking at the overall field and I think any of our field of candidates would make a good Governor,” she said. “But I’ve known Gwen a long time, and she shares my values. I think she has the best chance of any of them to succeed.”
For any Democrat to succeed, turnout will be vital.
Sink lost her election to Scott by just 61,550 votes, which she blames in part because of lower-than-expected turnout in the Democratic stronghold on the lower east coast.
That might change in November, given the horror from the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and President Donald Trump’s shaky popularity and his stumbles this week at the summit meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin.
“One of the things we have as Democrats, going off the last 48 hours (with Trump), oh my God,” she said. “If we can’t see what’s going on in the nation right now, then we’re pitiful. Period.”