By Jim Bleyer
Alex Sink, the corporatist Democrat who set a modern record for political futility, was a key figure in marginalizing progressive Florida Senate candidate Bob Buesing, forcing him out of a very winnable race, Tampa Bay Beat has learned.
The seat was considered a viable flip for the Dems. Not any more.
Progressives are furious at Sink and her cronies, with many promising to withhold their votes from Janet Cruz, the career politico who was termed out of her Florida House seat. Sink, Bank of America’s former president for operations in Florida, favored fellow corporatist Cruz, a late entrant, over Buesing as did Florida Democratic Party chairman Terrie Rizzo, and Hillsborough State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez, all supremely divisive figures within the Democratic party.
Buesing for months had been ramping up support for a rematch against Republican incumbent State Sen. Dana Young. Two years ago, Young prevailed with 48 percent of the vote. Independent candidate Joe Redner siphoned off nearly 10 percent of the vote, the large majority of which would have gone to Buesing, political observers agree.
Redner promised not to enter the contest this time around, supporting Buesing to the tune of a reported $10,000 contribution to his PAC. Redner told Tampa Bay Beat he would support Cruz but with not nearly the amount he gave Buesing.
Buesing was threatened with the denial of crucial endorsements and financial support if he contested late entrant Cruz in a primary. Nice guy Buesing denies this, saying he dropped out of the race for the sake of the party.
His withdrawal has Sink’s fingerprints all over the crime scene. From her throne in rural Thonotosassa, she calls the shots in favor of corporatists and against the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Rizzo shares the same disdain for progressives and that will prove costly in the fall. Berniecrats, African Americans, Millennials and the Reform Generation are livid at being cut out of the process. (See links to related stories below this article).
Sink’s influence is all about money, not anything related to her political (in)effectiveness. In 2010, she lost the Florida gubernatorial race to Rick Scott, a disgraced health care executive who had never before run for public office.
Three years later, Sink pulled the same underhanded stunt as she just did with Buesing—forcing a candidate that laid the groundwork for a winning campaign out of the race completely. On that occasion it was to promote her own candidacy.
In 2013, running in a special election to the U. S. House, Sink lost to David Jolly, a lobbyist who, like Scott, was making his first try for public office.
Tampa Bay Beat has the folks at Guinness—the record keepers not the brewers— scrambling. It is doubtful that in modern times any former officeholder but Alex Sink has lost two consecutive elections to political neophytes.
Like Rizzo and Gonzalez, Sink is out of step with modern Democratic thinking. In her campaign against David Jolly, she had this to say about immigration reform:
“Immigration reform is important in our country. It’s one of the main agenda items of the beaches chamber of commerce, for obvious reasons. Because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping?…And we don’t need to put those employers in the position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.”
She seriously said that. Such sentiments are anathema to progressives but somehow worm their way into the corporate playbook. Jolly, a tolerant moderate like many voters in the Pinellas County district, was flabbergasted. He pounced.
“I think Alex Sink’s comments reflect a bigotry that should disqualify her from representing the people of this community and should disqualify her from serving in the United States Congress. I think it was a disgusting comment.”
Voters agreed. Political unknown Jolly won by two percentage points despite facing the headwind of a Libertarian in the race.
Sink jumped into the campaign using the same seedy tactics that have marked her political career from Tampa Bay to Tallahassee. She elbowed out Jessica Ehrlich, an attorney who over months built a Congressional campaign from scratch. Ironically, support of the DREAM Act was a centerpiece of Enrlich’s platform. Not prone to spouting clumsy rhetoric, Ehrlich probably would have prevailed over Jolly.
Obeying an entitled corporatist such as Sink—and a loser at that—has been the ruin of the Florida Democratic Party for two decades under five equally impotent chairmen.
The Washington Post recently published an analysis of political races in special elections throughout the country, noting that “Florida is one of only a few states where the average shift relative to the 2016 presidential result in the district has been in the Republicans’ favor.”
Sink. Rizzo. Gonzalez. Those are the influential leaders with archaic thinking that are torpedoing Democratic hopes in the country’s most populous swing state.
For Alex Sink, pleasing Republicans takes priority over promoting Democrats as a party of inclusion. One month ago she proudly served on the honorary host committee for the election of Republican Sheriff Chad Chronister:
Florida Democrats under Rizzo are fighting open rebellions in Hillsborough and Duval counties. The corporatists are running a closed shop; that big tent Democrats once boasted about has become a yurt for honeymooners.