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Perspective: Dear Alex Sink, don't run before 2016

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Dear Alex Sink,

We read the other day that you are still pondering whether to run against David Jolly again in Congressional District 13, after a narrow loss to the Republican newcomer in last month's special election. You know, of course, that the filing deadline is less than a month away and until you decide, the field of potentially strong Democrats — actually, that field doesn't exist, so let's just say the field of potential Democratic challengers — is frozen out.

You certainly didn't ask for it, but here's our advice: Don't do it.

Now is the time to really ask yourself, do you truly want to serve in a dysfunctional, do-nothing, polarized Congress? And do you really want to go through another campaign? Your last campaign did a lot right, in terms of the nuts and bolts on voter targeting and messaging and absentee ballot chasing. But the hyper-cautious/scripted/secretive/inaccessible campaign you ran not only signaled that you truly do not enjoy campaigning, but also antagonized a fair number of elected Pinellas Democrats and activists.

If you decide you have the fire in your belly for another run, wait until 2016.

You just saw how severe the enthusiasm gap is between Republicans and Democrats. The electorate on March 11 included 44.6 percent Republicans, 36.5 percent Democrats and 18.9 percent independent or third-party voters. Do you really think November is going to be a lot better for Democrats in Tampa Bay or anywhere else?

I'm not alone in this thinking. In the Tampa Bay Times' latest Florida Insider Poll, we surveyed more than 115 of the state's most plugged-in politicos and more than 3 in 4 said it would be unwise for you to run again in November.

"First, enthusiasm is low among disappointed local Democrats for her to mount a second congressional race this November. Florida's former CFO has lost her last two elections, both certainly winnable — the latest by blowing an early 28-point lead against a candidate widely described as a second-tier candidate," said one Democrat surveyed. "Also, the political tide is running against her as voters in Florida and nationwide are poised to paint Election Day in November GOP red."

You told us the other day that your campaign had expected more independent voters to show up. Why? Their share of the electorate —19 percent — was the same as in the 2010 midterms and a little higher than in 2006.

Sure, a case can be made that more Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents will turn out in November to help Charlie Crist beat Rick Scott in the governor's race. But that's certainly no sure thing. You've already trashed Crist's strength as a Democratic candidate and kept your distance from him in the special election, so presumably you don't believe Crist will help much.

No, if you really want to run for Congress again, 2014 is not the year. Maybe you can come back after two high-profile electoral losses, but not three.

"If Sink runs and loses for a third time, it will assure two things. First, no Sink or McBride will run for public office in the next 30 years," said a Republican in our Insider Poll. "Second, Sink will need to spend a substantial amount of her resources on therapy."

If you do set your sights on 2016, don't even think about moving back to eastern Hillsborough after the lease on your rented condo in Feather Sound expires in November. That carpet-bagger charge really did turn some Pinellas residents against you.

Go buy yourself a nice place on the Pinellas beaches, where your kids Bert and Lexi can enjoy hanging out with you while you, only 65, get tanned, rested and ready. Mend some fences with Pinellas politicos and gear up for 2016. Sure, David Jolly will be more entrenched as an incumbent by then and may have established himself as a constituent-focused congressman. But Obamacare probably won't be as polarizing, and, given the partisan enthusiasm gap you just experienced, wouldn't you rather, be campaigning with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket?

Contact Adam C. Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.

Perspective: Dear Alex Sink, don't run before 2016 04/11/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 7:00pm]
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