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Alex Sink regrets defeat to Rick Scott in 2010, thinks about 2014 rematch

Alex Sink feels regret.

That's understandable when you come within 1 percentage point of being elected governor of Florida.

The Democratic former chief financial officer lost the 2010 race for governor to Republican Rick Scott by that margin.

She lost by 61,550 votes out of more than 5 million cast, in a year that was disastrous for Democrats, not just in Florida but all over the country.

"Some days I wake up and I think, 'Why couldn't I find those extra 60,000 votes?' " Sink says. "And with a great sense of regret that we didn't get the Democratic turnout, particularly in South Florida. It was very low. But then the next day, I wake up and say, 'How in the hell did I come so close?' "

Sink lost to a political neophyte who spent $73 million of his own money, most of it on TV ads, and whose popularity remains low.

Sink is back on the speaking circuit. She has launched a nonprofit think tank, the Florida Next Foundation (FloridaNext.org), to promote a Democratic agenda on issues affecting families and small businesses.

Lately, she sounds like she wants a rematch with Scott.

"Of course, I've thought about it," Sink said. "Many, many people are encouraging me. Even strangers who I've never met before would like to see me back."

In a recent appearance on public television's Florida This Week on WEDU, Sink showed a flash of the fire that often seemed missing in her campaign against Scott.

When moderator Rob Lorei asked Sink if she would have turned down billions of federal dollars for a high-speed rail system as Scott did, she looked into the camera and said, "Hell, no!"

The fact that Sink sounds serious about running for governor again worries some Democrats, who think the party definitely should look elsewhere.

"It would be difficult for her to run against the same person, having run and lost," says Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg. "Typically when a person takes another shot, it isn't against the same person they ran against."

Kriseman says the weak turnout in South Florida, especially in the liberal bastion of Broward, is a sign of Sink's shortcomings.

"She didn't do anything to energize the Democratic base," Kriseman says. "They stayed home. You can't take the base for granted."

Kriseman, policy chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in Tallahassee, pushed for the group to adopt guiding principles because too few Floridians know exactly what it means to be a Democrat.

"I blame myself and every other elected Democrat for that," Kriseman says.

For Democrats, confronting their party's shortcomings is a good place to begin as they look to 2014.

The Democrats have a bigger problem: a lack of experienced and attractive candidates to put up for statewide office.

That's why you hear names like former Gov. Charlie Crist being tossed around as a possible Democratic candidate next time.

A leading Republican, Sen. John Thrasher, a former state GOP chairman, beamed at the prospect that Sink might run for governor again.

Said Thrasher: "That would be the best opponent we could ever have."

Reporter Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Alex Sink regrets defeat to Rick Scott in 2010, thinks about 2014 rematch 02/20/12 [Last modified: Monday, February 20, 2012 6:31pm]
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