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Sink Takes Sharp Aim at McCollum Over Weekend

Democrat Alex Sink cast herself Saturday as an outsider and leader running against “career politician” Bill McCollum, firing-up Florida Democrats eager to regain the Governor’s Mansion after a decade’s absence.
Sink swept through her resume – 30 years in the banking business, rising to president of the Florida division of Bank of America. She won her first bid for elected office in 2006 – winning the Chief Financial Officer’s Cabinet post.

In turn, Sink gave short shrift to McCollum’s 20 years in Congress and 13 past political campaigns.

“Oh, and there’s one other big difference between a career politician like Bill McCollum and a leader like me,” Sink told about a thousand Democratic delegates at the state party conference at Disney World.

“Bill McCollum is not going to be elected governor,” she added, bringing the crowd to its feet.

Sink’s speech capped the opening day of the two-day conference, aimed at rallying Democrats for the election year ahead. While the party has in the past been bloodied by divisive primaries in the governor’s race, Democrats this year have cleared the field for Sink.

McCollum, too, is the lone Republican contender, although Lakeland Sen. Paula Dockery is poised to announce her candidacy within weeks. Still, Saturday night, McCollum was a ready target for Sink.

“Now give Bill McCollum some credit,” Sink said. “He’s done a very good job of making sure he always has a job. But what about jobs for everybody else? This is no time for politics as usual.”

In her 15-minute speech to delegates, Sink tried to draw sharp career contrasts with McCollum, elected Attorney General the same year she joined the Cabinet.

Sink said as CFO she has aggressitvely pushed for more accountability over state contracts with private companies, fought financial fraud and resisted a move by lawmakers to tap the state pension fund to help offset budget shortfalls.

She mentioned her husband, 2002 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride, only in passing, as “a proud Marine.” But as the mother of two children, Sink said she would be the first governor in 12 years to have educated her kids in Florida's public schools.

By contrast, she labeled her opponent, “Mr. Status Quo.” Sink said she intends to “put Florida under new management as Florida’s next governor.”

A Sink video shown to the crowd – that had the makings of a campaign ad – called her “a different kind of leader” promising “a fresh start for Florida.”

There are, however, similarities between Sink and McCollum, which extend beyond their three years on the Cabinet. Although next year’s governor’s race is likely to be shaped by the punishing economy, both candidates have histories with financial industries that could turn into toxic assets when viewed by voters.

Sink was a banker, leaving the industry in 2000, well before the subprime crisis hit. Still, Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer has already labeled her “banker Alex Sink.”

McCollum, too, as a member of Congress, sponsored legislation in 1998 aimed at toughening the bankruptcy system, drawing fierce criticism at the time from consumer groups. He also accepted almost $400,000 in campaign contributions from the banking and financial services industries in the six years leading up to sponsoring the measure.

“A career politician like Bill McCollum only talks about jobs and growth,” Sink said. “But a leader creates jobs and growth.”

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