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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Alex Sink follows Jeb Bush's lead on new policy foundation



After narrowly losing his first race for governor Jeb Bush created a think tank that helped keep his profile elevated and sharpened his education policy chops before he won the governor’s race on his second try. Fifteen years later former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink, after narrowly losing her campaign for governor, is launching her own policy think tank while brushing off the widespread speculation that she will take on Gov. Rick Scott again in 2014.

"That’s a long way away," former state chief financial officer Sink, 63, said when asked about running for governor again Tuesday. "People may criticize and say I have some other agenda, but the opposite would be that I go hide under the covers and do nothing. I don’t think that’s good for our state."

The Florida Next Foundation, officially launched Tuesday, is a non-profit organization that intends to gather research and data from around the state and the globe to help boost Florida’s economy with a focus on small business and entrepreneurs. Sink said non-governmental organizations and think tanks can be most effective for implementing innovative ideas and drive the focus toward issues most important to the public, and Florida Next will use research, social media interaction, polling and public forums to receive and disseminate information.

"Perhaps, rather than simply trying to to capture another state’s Fortune 500 companies we should cultivate our own businesses to create a culture of innovation and creativity. The answers to those questions don’t exist yet, but Florida Next believes that Floridians will help provide them," said a statement from the foundation.

Leasing office space in the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida next will be led day-to-day by Jim Cassady, Sink’s former chief of staff as CFO and her top campaign adviser. Board members include longtime friends and political allies, including her husband, former gubernatorial campaign manager Bill McBride, and her former campaign finance chairman Richard Swann or Winter Park.

"In order to make the idea into a reality, just like any other entrepreneur, the first place you go is friends and family....I just wanted four or five people in that initial group that could be a sounding board that could help figure out how to raise the money that it’s going to take to tun the foundation and make it viable, and then spread out from there," said Sink, who expects Florida Next to have an annual budget of about $750,000.

"People may criticize and say I have some other agenda, but the opposite would be that I go hide under the covers and do nothing. I don’t think that’s good for our state," said Sink, a longtime banking executive with business and contacts throughout Florida.

And the next governor’s race? Life, she said, is unpredictable.

"If you had told me 10 years ago that in the next 10 years my husband would run for governor, that I would be the CFO of the state of Florida, that I would be running for governor I would look at you and say you are friggin’ out of your mind."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 6:33pm]


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