Sink's win is a major gain for Democrats

Members of the Republican Party won the other Cabinet seats

Published November 8, 2006

Democrats broke the Republican Party's hold on the state Cabinet Tuesday as retired banker Alex Sink defeated Republican Senate President Tom Lee for the job of chief financial officer.

The GOP held on to the other two Cabinet seats, however, as Bill McCollum beat Walter "Skip" Campbell to become the next Attorney General, and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson easily turned back challenger Eric Copeland.

Sink was the only statewide seat the Democrats were able to win, but her victory was a major victory for the struggling minority party. It also introduced Sink as a rising power in the Democratic Party.

"I will be the chief financial officer for all the people, as I said from the beginning," she said.

Lee conceded about 10:45 p.m.

"This isn't how I expected the night to end," he said, flanked by his daughter and son. "We ran a virtually flawless campaign. I've always felt she was the strongest candidate the Democratic Party had."

The contest for CFO had hummed along largely under the radar until the final week before the election, when Lee and the Republican party boosted their efforts to discredit Sink's claims to be nonpartisan, in spirit if not in actual affiliation.

Television ads accused her of supporting tax increases and a campaign flier noted her support for a group that recruits pro-choice female candidates to run for public office. It appeared not to matter.

The attorney general's race was as much about the candidates' missteps as their vision for the statewide office. Campbell, a Broward County state Senator and wealthy trial lawyer, was forced to explain a series of misstatements regarding votes to save the life of Terri Schiavo.

McCollum, meanwhile, was forced to defend a 20-year congressional record in which he had been heavily criticized by consumer watch dog groups. McCollum has run twice for the U.S. Senate and is much better known than Campbell.

The agriculture commissioner's race, which featured the only incumbent running for a cabinet post, was never considered close.

Miami-area attorney Copeland tried to make the office as much about consumer services as agriculture, but his message did not take hold.

Bronson, who was appointed to the post in 2001 and elected in 2002, touted his experience as a rancher and a lawmaker.