Saturday, December 16, 2017
Politics

Alex Sink says she knows Pinellas despite her short residency

Seizing on the issue that has dogged Alex Sink throughout her congressional campaign, the St. Petersburg Republican Club put out bumper stickers this week that say: SHE IS NOT ONE OF US.

Sink is a longtime Tampa Bay business leader and a well known Democratic politician who previously served as the state's chief financial officer.

But three months ago, she wasn't even registered to vote in Pinellas County. She has lived in Hillsborough since roughly 1989, minus a couple of years in Jacksonville and four years in Tallahassee.

As she campaigns from Gulfport to Dunedin, Sink stresses that she is no stranger to Pinellas.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't feel that I had a connection with the district," she said, referring to the congressional district that stretches from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with portions of St. Petersburg cut out.

"Would I have gone to Ocala to run in a district there? I would say uh-uh," she said, shaking her head for emphasis.

Sink grew up in North Carolina, became president of Bank of America Florida and lived for years in east Hillsborough's rural Thonotosassa. But she says she has gotten to know Pinellas through decades of work in banking, politics and as Florida's CFO.

Sink provided these examples of her work in Pinellas:

• As Florida's chief financial officer she had a statewide job, but said she accomplished things important to Pinellas such as consolidating several of the agency's call centers into one Pinellas location; working to protect seniors from scam artists; and working with local businesses on matters related to the BP oil spill.

• She said she formed friendships with local political leaders over the years; not only when she ran for CFO but also when she was the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor and her husband, Bill McBride, was the Democratic nominee in 2002.

• She has served on five corporate boards of Pinellas-based companies including: Republic Bank, First Advantage Corp., Raymond James Financial, Raymond James Bank, and currently, C1 Bank. These were "all institutions that are headquartered here, their employment base is here," she said.

As she crisscrosses Pinellas in the final weeks leading to the March 11 special election, Sink said she keeps bumping into people and places she knows.

On Tuesday, it was a retiree at an assisted living facility in Largo who Sink used to work with at NationsBank (before it became Bank of America).

Before that, she drove past a former bank in Indian Rocks Beach and "had this flashback of remembering going in there one day," she said. She said she was there because an elderly woman who cashed Social Security checks regularly had suddenly arrived with a young stranger, wanting to withdraw a large sum of money. Alert bank personnel recognized a scam.

But Sink, who at the time supervised bank branches in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, said she spotted a bigger problem. "I went back and said we need to take care of our senior customers. … We did senior sensitivity training. We put Vaseline on glasses and said this is what it's like if you have cataracts. We took twine and tied our fingers together and said this is what it's like if you have arthritis. Just to kind of walk in (their) shoes.

"That's just one of the many examples I could give you of understanding how business works here in Pinellas County," Sink said.

Sink was never based full-time in Pinellas, but she said her work as a supervisor gave her dealings in the county that continued as she rose in the bank's hierarchy.

As to other candidates, Libertarian Lucas Overby is the only one who grew up in Pinellas and graduated from high school within the county (Lakewood High, Center for Advanced Technologies).

Republican David Jolly was born in Dunedin and graduated from high school in Pasco County. His mother went to Clearwater High School and his father was once associate pastor at Clearwater's Calvary Baptist Church. After college at Emory University he went to Washington, D.C., and soon began working for the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Jolly says spending nearly 20 years alongside Young allowed him to work for Pinellas County for decades — although for much of that time, he was actually living in Washington, D.C. He moved to Pinellas in 2006 and lives in a condo he owns in Indian Shores.

Jolly took aim at Sink on the day he announced his candidacy, saying, "This race is about ensuring that somebody from Pinellas County is elected to represent our communities and our neighbors."

Some Sink supporters say she is better known locally than Jolly. Alan Bomstein, a registered Republican and contractor active in local civic issues, said he had never heard Jolly's name until he entered this race.

And Sink herself says she has been involved in the Pinellas business community for some 25 years, longer than Jolly.

Pinellas Republican chairman Michael Guju scoffed at her comparison.

"Honestly, I'm insulted when she says that she has the same contact with Pinellas County that David Jolly has," said Guju, stressing that Jolly was born in the county, has roots in the county and has a father who served in one of its larger churches. "I think she is making a fool of the voters in Pinellas County when she makes ridiculous comments like that."

Sink moved into Pinellas at the end of 2013, but did not buy a home. She moved into a rented condo in the Feather Sound area, raising the question of whether she was really putting down roots or just waiting to see what happens in the campaign.

Reporters sometimes ask if she will continue living in Pinellas if she loses the race. She has a stock answer: She's not planning to lose.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232

 
Comments
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Published: 12/15/17
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Published: 12/15/17
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Published: 12/15/17
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Published: 12/15/17
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Published: 12/15/17