She had hoped to decide by January. Then she said summer, which turned into September. All year, she had agonized: Should she run for governor again?
Finally, with time to launch a campaign running out, Alex Sink broke the news last Friday: She would not try in 2014 for the job she almost won in 2010.
Instead, she would continue to work with entrepreneurs through her Florida Next Foundation and support candidates "who I believe share my vision."
The announcement wasn’t entirely unexpected. It was widely known that Sink’s kids, both in graduate school in Gainesville, didn’t want her to run. Neither did her 90-year-old dad. They knew how much money she would need, how ugly campaigns could be.
But there was another, more private factor that weighed on Sink’s decision, and she thought about it every time she walked into her closet and forced herself not to look to the right.
This is the story of Sink’s nine months without her husband Bill McBride, the private journey of a public person working out her next role.
Adelaide Alexander “Alex” Sink is 65, but looks years younger. A staunch Democrat, she has served as the state’s chief financial officer, president of Bank of America’s Florida operations, chairwoman of Florida’s Nature Conservancy.
In 2010, she lost the governorship to Republican Rick Scott by just 1 percent — the closest race ever — even though he outspent her by $57 million. She got within 60,000 votes of becoming the state’s first female governor.
When the election was over, she went home to Bill. He had run for governor himself in 2002, losing to Jeb Bush. Throughout their 26-year marriage, Bill had been Sink’s political partner, her sounding board, her fundraiser. And cheerleader. As recently as last Thanksgiving, he was encouraging her to run in 2014.
Then, just before Christmas, he suddenly died.
Friends and family sustained Sink through the first numb weeks, but it wasn’t long before her admirers began tugging at her. They cornered her at the airport, the post office, the gym: "Please, Alex, we need you! Florida needs you!" They wanted to contribute to her campaign, plant signs, work the phones.
"I understand all the tough times that you have been through personally," someone wrote on her Facebook. "But please think of the young people, the future of Florida and our country."
She knew she had the support, believed she could help improve Florida’s education, economy and transportation. She wants Scott out of office. She even pictured herself moving into the governor’s mansion. Alone.
Figuring out whether to run again, Sink said, was "the hardest decision I ever had to make."
And the toughest part: Having to make it without Bill.
Wife to widow
She is still trying to clean out his half of their home office, wondering whether to sell his Gators tickets, struggling to ride the waves of grief that sideswipe her.
"It’s getting easier, slowly," Sink said in early September in the sprawling home she shared with Bill on Lake Thonotosassa. "But it’s still too quiet, too lonely."
She still sleeps closest to the bathroom, on her side of their bed. Still thinks of things to tell him in the dark. Over the years they were often apart, traveling. She wakes sometimes, hoping he has come home.
In many ways, Sink’s journey parallels that of other women who have transitioned from wife to widow, from a lifetime of "we" to a new normal, "me."