TAMPA — Alex Sink of Tampa, who just decided against running for governor of Florida, is now seriously considering entering the race for the St. Petersburg congressional seat of Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
Sink said in an interview Friday she is “seriously considering” the possibility and that her timeline for announcing a decision will be “weeks, not days,” but wouldn’t be more specific than that.
After returning from a business trip, she said, “I started getting some calls from people” Wednesday.
“After making my decision in the governor’s race I’ve been sitting here for two weeks listening to all this ridiculousness in Washington, and thinking maybe we need some new people there, a different approach. I’ll need to make a decision fairly soon, but I am seriously considering it.”
Both sides of Tampa Bay buzzed with rumors about the possibility Friday.
Sink would be the biggest name among Democrats now considering the race or thought to be interested in it, and one of the best-known potential candidates of either party.
The race is expected to be one of the most competitive in the nation, one of only a handful of tossup races that will decide control of the U.S. House after the 2014 election.
The news about Sink came on the same day that two other prominent Democrats from St. Petersburg, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and former state House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace, bowed out.
Two prominent Republicans thought to be interested, state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala, also have taken their hats out of the ring.
Sink faces one potential obstacle: She lives in Thonotosassa in east Hillsborough, not in the southern Pinellas County district Young represents.
Legally, she doesn’t have to live in the district to run for the seat or serve in it. The U.S. Constitution requires only that a Congress member live in the state where the district is located.
If she seeks the seat, Sink said, “I would become a resident of the district.”
Asked whether she would establish residency there during a campaign or after the election, she said she hadn’t had time yet to think the question through.
“I’d have to look at the legal requirements, but my intent would be to be a resident there most of the time.”
“I moved to the Tampa Bay region almost 25 years ago,” she added. “I’ve been engaged in the business life and regional life of the community for almost 25 years. I have many friends and bus connections throughout this area – I know many people and businesspeople throughout it.”
Some Democrats in Pinellas said her residency is a problem Sink could overcome with ease.
“Alex Sink has always been very popular in Pinellas County,” said Pinellas Democratic Party Chairman Mark Hanisee. “She and Bill” — Sink’s late husband, Bill McBride — “always spent a lot of time over here, came over here to speak to various groups.”
Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, a University of St. Petersburg political scientist and former Democratic political operative, said Pinellas Democrats would be excited about Sink, who has a long history as a Democratic fundraiser, won a statewide election as chief financial officer and only narrowly lost the 2010 governor’s race to Gov. Rick Scott.
“I have to believe there would be a lot of enthusiasm about having someone who can hit the ground running, raise a lot of money and already has a well-known name,’’ Scourfield McLauchlan said.
She noted that even while losing to Scott in 2010, Sink won among District 13 voters.
But others weren’t so ready to dismiss the question of where Sink lives.
“I love Alex Sink, but I think it would be an issue,” said Welch, who said part of the reason he won’t run is that he also lives outside the district. “She’s exactly the type of person we need in Congress, but I think having roots in the community is important.”
Welch said his biggest reason for staying out of the race was personal. His father died three weeks ago, and his Welch’s uncle died earlier this year, and Welch has inherited command of his father’s business.
Wallace, meanwhile, said it’s “not a race I’m willing to run,” citing the bitter partisanship in Washington, a different climate than when he was in the state Legislature in the 1990s.