VERO BEACH — Alex Sink made a whistle stop Saturday afternoon in Vero Beach, her pledge to visit all 67 counties in Florida bringing her to a place where registered Republicans outnumber her party’s voters by 18 percent.
"Let it not be said that the people of Indian River County will not vote for a Democrat," said Sink, who is leaving her elected post as Florida’s chief financial officer to run for governor. "I know that I can use my experience as a business executive and my four years as CFO to put people back to work.
"That’s not a partisan issue," she added. "That’s a message for Democrats and Republicans and independents as well."
Sink flew into Vero Beach about 2 p.m. for an hour-long rally at Joey’s Bistro, where she spoke with reporters and the crowd before flying back to campaign headquarters in Tampa.
Her visit comes when at least two polls have Sink and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott running about even in the Nov. 2 contest to replace Charlie Crist, who is leaving the governor’s mansion in hopes of becoming Florida’s next U.S. senator.
Sink was fresh from Friday’s first debate with Scott in Miami, where the former chief executive of Columbia/HCA hospitals tried to tie Sink to President Barack Obama’s policies and Florida’s job losses.
Sink, for her part, pointed to Scott’s largely self-funded campaign, short seven-year residency in Florida and Columbia/HCA’s record $1.7 billion settlement of allegations that the company overbilled Medicare before Scott resigned as its top executive in 1997 – all themes Sink repeated at Saturday’s Vero Beach stop, where no Scott partisans were in evidence.
Sink repeatedly stressed her 26 years in banking and four years as Florida’s top elected finance official has prepared her to improve the state’s rocky economy.
"My plan calls for providing tax credits to small businesses that hire more Floridians," Sink said. "If you want to start up a business, we would hold off on your state income taxes for three years until you get on your feet."
She also promised a summit of Florida business leaders for ideas on how to diversify the state’s economy.
"We’ve got to get away from these get-rich-quick real estate bubbles," she said.
Jake and Rachael Carson-Zerbe of Vero Beach brought their 18-month-old daughter, Maryjane, to meet Sink.
"She’ll be Florida’s first female governor and that’s very exciting," Rachael Carson-Zerbe said.
Pamela Fein, a retired St. Lucie County teacher, drove north from her St. Lucie County home to thank Sink for opposing Senate Bill 6 last spring. It was viewed by the Florida Education Association teachers union as an attack on public school teacher pay and tenure before being vetoed by Crist.
"All educators are working for Sink, to get her elected," Fein said.
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