Alex Sink bows out of re-match with David Jolly. Now what?

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Exactly five weeks after she lost in the intensely hard-fought CD13 race against David Jolly, Democrat Alex Sink announced this morning she will not be the Democratic nominee challenging Jolly this fall.

“I am so honored and humbled by the outpouring of support our campaign received, but after reflection with my family I have made a personal decision not to run for the 13th Congressional District seat in the 2014 election," Sink said in a statement. "I want to thank every voter, volunteer and donor for their support — we can all be proud of the strong campaign we ran. I look forward to finding new, rewarding avenues where I can continue to effectively serve the people of Florida. In the words of Bill, I look forward to continuing to do good. I remain totally convinced that a Democrat can and will win this congressional seat in the fall, and I look forward to helping the Democratic nominee."

Sink lost by 1.8 percentage points to Jolly, the former lobbyist and aide to longtime CD13 Representative Bill Young. Members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said from the day after the March 11 special election that they wanted Sink to run again — thoughts that were amplified by a report by John King on CNN nine days ago.
So now the doors are open for potential Democrats from Pinellas County — you know, ones who actually lived in the district before Young's passing last fall — to run later this year. The names that will be bandied about include Commissioners Janet Long, Charlie Justice and perhaps Ken Welch. The Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday that NAACP head Reverend Manuel Sykes was also considering throwing his hat in the proverbial ring.

Did I hear somebody say Jessica Ehrlich's name? She's of course the attorney who ran against Congressman Young in 2012 and was poised to challenge him again this November. Then the DCCC dropped in after Young's death and asked Sink if she would consider running for Congress  — despite the fact that she had never lived in the district. After an initial poll showed Sink dominating Ehrlich in a potential primary, Ehrlich announced she was stepping down from the contest.

"Washington Democrats can’t even convince their diehard career politicians to walk the plank this November," responded the National Republican Campaign Committee's Katie Prill in a statement. "It’s obvious that Alex Sink stood zero chance of beating David Jolly this November and her decision not to run only proves that the 2014 midterm elections are going to be extremely rough for Democrats across the country.”

But it's not obvious that Sink had zero chance to defeat Jolly. Democrats have pointed out that there will be many more of their kind participating in November's election — certainly more voters than chose to participate in last month's special election. With an intense gubernatorial race at the top of the ballot (along with a medical marijuana initiative that could bring out considerably larger numbers of young voters), their chances were decent of overturning last month's special election.

Although Sink was considered a "strong" candidate in the respect that she had huge name recognition which could bring in lots of dollars (and she did out-raise Jolly in a one-on-one contest before the third parties got involved), there was considerable criticism about the organization of her campaign, as well as her own limitations as a candidate. She is a moderate, and made a strong appeal to Republicans and independents, which definitely helped spur her to such a close margin in the race against Jolly. But many Democrats prefer a candidate who will appeal more directly to the base.

It's certainly been an interesting year for Sink, the state's CFO from 2007-2011. After narrowly losing to Rick Scott in the race for governor in 2010, she was always in the mix to run against him this year. But things changed in her life when her husband, Bill McBride, died shortly before Christmas in 2012. Sink announced in September of last year she would not run for re-election against Scott this year. But just a month later she was in as the Democrat in the special CD13 contest. Now for the second time in less than a year, she has made a dramatic announcement that she will not run again against a Republican who narrowly beat her the first time around.

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