1. Opinion

Carpetbagger label for Alex Sink: geographic or demographic?

Alex Sink, a candidate for the 13th Congressional District, owns a home in Hillsborough County but is now living in Pinellas County.
Alex Sink, a candidate for the 13th Congressional District, owns a home in Hillsborough County but is now living in Pinellas County.
Published Jan. 2, 2014

From all the sputtering Yosemite Sam outrage you would think Gen. William Sherman was marching through the 13th Congressional District flicking a match toward the Loews Don CeSar Hotel.

"I will never vote for that carpetbagger," seethed the elderly voice on the phone. And in case you haven't been paying attention lately, the candidate-as-alien Satan Mr. Geezer was referring to was Democrat Alex Sink, who is running to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Clearly the Grandpa Walton of the Gulf was not a man easily amused, or to be reasoned with.

Ever since Young crossed over to that Appropriations Committee in the sky, the scramble has been on to fill one of the very few remaining swing congressional districts in the nation. In a few days, former Young adviser and lobbyist David Jolly, state Rep. Kathleen Peters and newcomer Mark Bircher will square off in a primary election to decide the GOP nominee to take on Sink, a former Florida chief financial officer and losing 2010 gubernatorial candidate.

Almost from the moment her name surfaced as a possible candidate, the cluck-o-sphere has been in full froth that Sink's Hillsborough County residency should be a disqualifying factor to represent the august, politically pristine 13th Congressional District, which essentially covers almost all of Pinellas County.

For years Sink has lived in a Thonotosassa manse she shared with her late husband and former gubernatorial candidate, Bill McBride, who died in 2012. To her critics, like the grumpy coot on the other end of the line, Sink might as well have been hanging her hat in North Korea.

"She doesn't live here," Mr. Fogy sputtered. "She doesn't know anything about Pinellas County."

Please. It's not as if Alex Sink has been living in Brigadoon for the past 50 years and suddenly decided to parachute into Pinellas County to run for Congress. Until she recently moved into a Feather Sound condo, Sink has lived roughly 20 miles or so from the Pinellas County line. And hard as it may be to believe, while many South Tampa swells regard driving north of Kennedy Boulevard as more daunting than the Lewis and Clark expedition, Sink has spent time in Pinellas County first during her years running Bank of America's Florida operations and later as CFO. As well, Sink carried Young's district in both her CFO and gubernatorial campaigns.

While there are certainly issues of parochial interest to Pinellas County residents, voters in the 13th Congressional District are just as concerned about the economy, health care, taxes, environment and the like as any other American citizen. As the current makeup of Congress has more than amply demonstrated, you certainly don't need to be a member of Mensa to serve in Washington.

And Sink can actually find Kenneth City without a GPS gizmo.

Still, I was curious about Mr. Fusspot's antipathy toward Sink purely on the basis of a ZIP code. During his one-term train wreck as a member of Congress, Republican Allen West never lived in the 22nd Congressional District he represented. In fact, West was a constituent of Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Given Mr. Wadded Britches' insistence a member of Congress must reside in the district they represent, then surely Allen West was as uniquely unqualified to serve as Alex Sink.

"No, that was okay," Mr. Codger argued. "Allen West is a great American, who served his country." Ah! At last we were getting somewhere. So if Alex Sink had served in combat in Iraq and had left the military under a cloud of misconduct, then she, too, would be perfectly acceptable to Mr. AARP even if she had happened to be living in Yeehaw Junction Heights?

"Absolutely not!" Mr. Get Off Of My Lawn practically bellowed.

This was a bit vexing. So was it — and this was just a wild guess — the fact that Sink is not only a Democrat, but a woman, too, who just coincidentally paid her mortgage in Hillsborough County that so irked Mr. Dithers?

Alas, we'll never know for sure since the line went dead for some inexplicable reason.


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