Alex Sink receives warm reception at famed St. Pete burger joint El Cap

Posted by Ellen Kirkland on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 1:37 PM

Alex Sink Greets Supporters at El Cap
  • Alex Sink Greets Supporters at El Cap

On the eve of the Republican Special Primary for Congressional District 13, while the three Republican contenders were scrambling around securing last-minute support and ducking questions about whether or not John Boehner deserved another term as Speaker of the House, Alex Sink, the lone Democrat in the race, was casually greeting supporters and well-wishers at St. Pete’s most famous hamburger joint, El Cap.

Political oddsmakers are giving Sink a slight edge in the special election to replace deceased District 13 Congressman C. W. “Bill” Young, and Democrats are banking on her name recognition and popularity with voters on both sides of the aisle.

Republican pundits caution Democrats not to be so cocky. According to former Jeb Bush adviser Mac Stipanovich, quoted in a recent Politico article, “[Sink] is anti-charisma...she is not a very good campaigner.”

The subtleties of Southern charm, however, may be lost on Mr. Stipanovich.

After being introduced by recently elected St. Pete City Councilwoman Darden Rice, Sink captivated the small crowd of about 30 enthusiasts. Thanking everyone for coming out to show their support, she then said, “Do you like my outfit today? Look at me — I just came from the beach.”

The crowd erupted, almost in unison, “You look like St. Pete.”

Earlier in the day Sink had helped Pinellas residents with a beach cleanup and was quick to point out, “We don’t ask [the volunteers] are you an R, or a D or an I — we just need to be sure to keep our beaches in pristine condition and to show those folks in Washington that we can work together in a non-partisan way.”

Sink recently hired Rice’s former campaign manager, Nick Janovsky, as her political director, and credits him with involving more young people in the campaign. At Monday night’s event she introduced Janovsky and intern Daniela Baeza, an Eckerd College student. In an interview Baeza said, “[I] am very excited about working on the campaign and about voting. This is my first time voting. I just became a citizen in July. I am from Chile.”

After pointing out that Pinellas County is a county made up of small business (38,000 in all), Sink regaled the group with the tale of how she and El Cap owner Mary Jean Bonfili met recently when the congressional candidate stopped by for lunch. She said, “As you all will learn about me, one of the things I love to do is eat and I don’t like missing lunch.”

Over a world-famous El Cap cheeseburger they discovered that they had a lot in common — both women are from North Carolina.

Sink left El Cap with Mary Jean’s endorsement.

Bonfili confided, “I really like her. I think she is an advocate for the average person and for small businesses and she has a history of that.”

When asked what Sink thought her biggest hurdle would be in Pinellas County, she demurred, “So far, so good — everywhere I go the reception has been fantastic.”

Rice was a little more circumspect when asked the same question, “I think the greatest hurdle at this point is the short timeline in the election. What little time we have to gather the resources and execute a campaign running on all pistons, that’s the challenge.”

The general election is scheduled for March 11.

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