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Bill McBride, Centrist Democrat Who Challenged Jeb Bush in 2002, Is Dead at 67

| December 24, 2012

Bill McBride during his 2002 run against Jeb Bush. His wife, Alex Sink, who ran against Rick Scott two years ago, is to his right.

Bill McBride, a powerful lawyer who unsuccessfully tried to unseat then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002 and later watched his wife, Alex Sink, also run for governor, has died. He was 67.

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McBride, who had a history of heart problems, suffered a heart attack Saturday in Mount Airy, N.C., the Tampa Bay Times reported. As word got out Sunday about his death, McBride was praised by political figures from both parties.

“All those who knew Bill knew he was not only a tireless advocate for the Democratic Party, but a leader and true public servant to the people of Florida,” state Democratic Chairman Rod Smith said in a prepared statement. “We send our thoughts and prayers to Alex, her children and their family in this difficult time.”

Gov. Rick Scott, who defeated Sink in the 2010 gubernatorial election, also issued a statement saying Florida is “no doubt a better place because people like Bill McBride commit themselves to making a difference in the lives of others.”

“Bill McBride was a great lawyer, a devoted public servant, a veteran and a talented leader,” Scott said. “Our family’s thoughts and prayers are with the McBride family, and especially his wife Alex, at this time of great loss.”

McBride, a Marine who earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam, was a powerful figure in legal and business circles before he ran for governor. He had been managing partner of the Holland & Knight law firm, long one of the most-prominent firms in the state.

But in 2002, with some Democratic Party leaders seeing him as their best hope of beating Bush, McBride jumped into the gubernatorial race. He narrowly beat former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in the Democratic primary but lost to Bush by a margin of 56 percent to 43.2 percent.

McBride, who had heavy backing from teachers unions, criticized Bush on education issues. But Bush portrayed McBride as someone who would raise taxes, and the incumbent combined his personal popularity with a finely tuned campaign to easily win.

Bush on Sunday sent a Twitter message saying, “Thoughts and prayers are with Alex and Bill’s entire family.”


Four years after McBride lost, Sink, a former banker, ran successfully for state chief financial officer. She followed in 2010 with the gubernatorial campaign, losing by less than 62,000 votes to Scott.

Sink has been the subject of widespread speculation about whether she might run again for governor in 2014, though she has not taken formal steps to enter the race.

McBride, who earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida, had been a partner in recent years with the Tampa law firm of Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride.

In 2003, McBride underwent an angioplasty to open blocked coronary arteries that caused him to collapse while working out. At the time, McBride, who grew up in Lake County, described the bruises from his treatment and the use of defibrillator to shock his heart as making him feel like “somebody put me in a whip-up machine.”

Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist, sent out a Twitter message Sunday night that said he had talked with saddened alumni of Sink’s campaign.

“He (McBride) always loved keeping the staff fired up,” Schale wrote. “Impacted so many. Just stunned.”

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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4 Responses for “Bill McBride, Centrist Democrat Who Challenged Jeb Bush in 2002, Is Dead at 67”

  1. Jeb says:

    A Lawyer, and a Democrat ! Wait…..If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.

       0 likes

  2. JoJo says:

    I’m sure Alex Sink could win the second time around or will newly ordained Democrat, Charlie Crist, run for Governor or the Senate. It sure will make for an interesting 2014 Democratic election.

    Rick Scott has got to go and that I know.

       2 likes

  3. Ricky says:

    Charlie Crist is a OVER DONE tuna head and a coward. Alex Sink…STINKS !!!!!

       2 likes

  4. Maryjoe says:

    All my thoughts are with his wife and family. May you have peace in your hearts quickly.

       2 likes

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