Former Governor Candidate Bill McBride Dies

Dec 24, 2012

Bill McBride, a lawyer and affable family man who succeeded almost everywhere but politics, died suddenly Saturday during a family Christmas gathering in Mount Airy, N. C.

McBride ran for governor against Republican Jeb Bush in 2002 and lost by 14 points.

POWER COUPLE: Bill McBride and his wife, Alex Sink, were both Democratic candidates for governor. McBride died suddenly Saturday.
Credit Family photo

With him at the time of his fatal heart attack was his wife, Alex Sink, who -- like her husband -- once ran for governor and lost. A longtime Democratic power couple, McBride and Sink lived in the Tampa area. McBride was 67.

In a comprehensive obit this morning, the Tampa Bay Times describes McBride's rise at the law firm of Holland and Knight, his decision to run for governor and the folksy manner which, unfortunately for McBride, may have been his only campaign gift:

He was an imposing figure, at 6-feet-3 and well over 200 pounds, but had a wide, easy grin and a folksy demeanor.

Despite his success and wealth in the corporate world, McBride enjoyed wearing an old gray sweatshirt, eating cheeseburgers and slaw dogs and drinking a glass of bourbon. He remained steadfastly proud of his small-town roots in 1950s Leesburg, north of Orlando.

McBride was born on May 10, 1945. The son of a TV repairman, he played fullback and linebacker in high school and held a variety of jobs to support himself. "You get a chance to build confidence as a kid in a small town." McBride told the Miami Herald in 2002.

In 2001, as Republican Gov. Jeb Bush neared the end of his first term, McBride decided to walk into the spotlight to challenge Bush's re-election.  He resigned as managing partner at Holland and Knight and begin to work a complicated primary campaign strategy that involved rallying union support around a big education reform plan.

He defeated former U. S. Attorney General and Dade County State Attorney Janet Reno in the 2002 primary but McBride found himself out of his league against Bush's organization and political skills.

It was the year that voters were asked to approve the constitutional class size amendment, a measure that McBride favored. But he could not articulate his support effectively during a critical debate at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

After his loss to Bush, McBride returned to his law practice but hit the campaign trail again eight years later when Alex Sink made her run for governor and lost to Republican Rick Scott. Here's McBride stumping for his wife:

The Associated Press has more on McBride's death and the respects paid by top state Democrats. The AP quotes Sink on the passing of her husband.

Sink said McBride’s legacy as an advocate for civil rights outshines his brief political career.

“He was always a promoter of equality,” Sink said, adding that her husband championed survivors of the Rosewood racial massacre, pro bono work and gay rights.

McBride left his legal career to run for office to challenge Bush’s education policy, Sink said. He won the early endorsement of the state teachers union, followed by that of the state AFL-CIO.

“He just believed our state was going in the wrong direction under Jeb Bush,” she said. “He ran a campaign based on supporting public education, supporting teachers and investing more money in education — and he was right.”