On Twitter, Jeb Bush said: Thoughts and prayers are with Alex and Bills entire family.
Bill McBride was larger than life, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement. He was one of the great business, legal and political leaders of Florida, and he is a friend that many of us will miss.
Democratic political strategist Steve Schale said a planned cup of coffee with McBride at his Tampa law office two weeks ago turned into a two-hour conversation mostly not about politics. Schale said McBride spoke proudly of his son Bert, who is studying to be a lawyer, and daughter Lexis recent completion of her third year of medical school.
He was just beaming. He was in a good mood, as always, Schale recalled.
McBride and Sink lived in an elegant home with a large wraparound porch on 30 acres overlooking Lake Thonotosassa east of Tampa. But he drove a Ford pickup with more than 150,000 miles on it and liked to talk about the common sense he got from ordinary people at the nearby Circle K convenience store.
He could walk into an orange grove and start singing with the Haitian pickers, then go have meat loaf with the guys at the Flying J Truck Stop, and then he could put on a suit, zip to Tally in his MG, and have all the suaveness and smoothness of a guy from Harvard, longtime friend Steve Brewer told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002.
But McBride proved no match for the formidable Bush in the 2002 gubernatorial race. He had never before run for office, and it showed, as he would often note in a self-deprecating way. And he relied excessively, critics said on teachers union leaders to make key campaign decisions.
McBride defeated former Miami-Dade State Attorney and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in the Democratic primary to earn the matchup with Bush, who defeated McBride by 13 points to win a second term.
The Bush-McBride campaigns most memorable moment came during a live TV debate at the University of Central Florida. Under intense questioning by debate moderator Tim Russert of NBC, McBride was vague and unconvincing when pressed to say where he would find the billions of dollars to pay for a constitutional amendment requiring smaller class sizes.
McBride supported the class-size amendment, Bush opposed it, but voters nevertheless approved it that November.
After his crushing loss, McBride phoned his friend Manteiga, the newspaper publisher.
He said, Im sorry I let you down, Manteiga said. Ive never heard another politician say that.
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Will Hobson contributed to this report.