Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Friday she will not run for governor again in 2014 and will instead focus on the Florida Next Foundation she created to help small businesses grow.
Sink was the 2010 Democratic nominee and narrowly lost to Republican Rick Scott in a year when other Democrats seeking statewide office were badly beaten. The decision means Republican-turned-Democrat and former Gov. Charlie Crist will have an easier time if he runs for his old job with his new party. He's expected to make an announcement this fall.
"The best way for me to make an impact is to keep on doing the work that I'm doing right now. I have a full plate of business projects and we have begun to get some real momentum at Florida Next," Sink said when she announced the decision in an interview with The Associated Press.
Part of her goal with the foundation is matching venture capital investors with startup businesses who want to remain in Florida.
While Sink has questioned whether Crist truly embraces Democratic Party values, she says she wants to sit down with him and any other Democrats who run and discuss their vision for Florida and their plan to defeat Scott. Right now, former state Sen. Nan Rich is the only credible Democrat in the race, but she's struggled to raise the money needed to run a statewide campaign.
"I haven't spoken to either one of them yet, but I'm sure I will in the next couple of days," Sink said.
And just because she's not running, it doesn't mean she's not going to call attention to Scott's leadership, Sink said.
"This might free me up to continue and maybe be more aggressive about holding this governor that we have now accountable for business management of our state and our priorities and that's going to be fun," Sink said. "There's no lack of things to point out that he's doing to hurt our state."
She zeroed in on Scott's resistance to the federal Affordable Care Act and said he should be doing more to make sure health care is available to Floridians.
"I just think he sounds downright mean and we deserve better than that," Sink said.
Sink's decision is good news for Crist.
"He doesn't have to worry about spending $15 million beating her," said Screven Watson, a Democratic political consultant. "It's a great day for Charlie Crist. It means Republicans don't get the wish that it's a divisive primary."
Republicans almost immediately sent out an email using Sink's past words against Crist, including a remark that Crist's campaign would be "a disaster."
"The Republican Party of Florida is more than happy to run the campaign that Alex Sink would have run against Charlie Crist," the party said.
Crist didn't answer his cellphone and his voice mailbox was full.
Sink has a business background and isn't always comfortable in the role of a politician. While she says people have stopped her daily and asked her to run, the idea of another campaign was even less enticing without her husband Bill McBride. McBride, a Tampa lawyer who was the 2002 Democratic nominee for governor, died in December.
She spent her career in banking and ran Bank of America's Florida operation before running for office for the first time in 2006.
"I have worked with Alex many times and have always admired her strength and her clarity of purpose," said Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux. "Alex Sink has consistently stood up for Florida's middle class families and small businesses, and I know Democrats across Florida look forward to hearing her strong advocacy at the Florida Next Foundation and around the state in the months and years to come."
If she had decided to run, she likely would have faced serious competition in a primary for the first time. She had no primary opponent when she won the CFO seat in 2006 and had no serious challengers for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.
However, Sink, 65, said she is not ruling our running for elected office again at some point.
"I'm old enough to know that you ought to never say never," Sink said. "Absolutely I'm not ruling out running again."