Alex Sink says she didn't mean to break debate rules
By Marc Caputo, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
Posted: Oct 26, 2010 02:00 AM
TALLAHASSEE — Alex Sink on Tuesday confirmed that the campaign aide she fired after Monday night's gubernatorial debate was Brian May, who had sent a text message/e-mail to the Droid of Sink's makeup artist, who in turn shared it with the Democrat during the debate.
May is a Miami-Dade-based insurance lobbyist and onetime aide to Sen. Bill Nelson, when he was the state's insurance commissioner.
The incident had a double irony for Sink: 1) May signed the debate agreement that essentially outlawed the message-passing; 2) Sink has spent considerable time and political capital trying to make Republican opponent Rick Scott out to be the cheater due to the Medicare fraud in the past of his former company, Columbia/HCA.
Scott, who was getting touched up with makeup during a commercial break, watched the message being passed to Sink. He called over CNN political editor Mark Preston. Arms crossed, Scott said, "So we can get notes, we can have people that work for us come give us messages? … Right there with the BlackBerry. She was shown one by that lady." At that point, CNN confiscated the cell phone.
When the debate resumed, Scott complained that Sink broke the rules, claiming to the studio audience that she was shown a message on an iPad or an iPod (it was, again, a Droid, so the Republican Party of Florida's catchy "iCheat" moniker is a no-go).
Sink, speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting, said she didn't know about the message or its contents until she was shown the message. She spent most of her explanation laying into Scott for what she said was his characterization of Panhandle residents as whiners from the oil spill.
Scott's campaign is passing around an "iCheat" graphic that includes Sink's picture on an iPhone screen. "You want to cheat at a debate? There's an app for that," one Scott aide said.
Scott's making political hay out of the incident, but in a state suffering from a litany of economic problems that Scott regularly cites in a stump speech, how big a deal is this?
"You know, I don't know how big it is to any individual," Scott said. "But she wants to attack me all the time and then she doesn't follow the rules. And that's a pretty simple rule to follow. … This is like everything she's done; she never takes responsibility."
Scott said Sink should have taken responsibility by saying, "Look, I made a mistake. I was wrong. I shouldn't have done it."
Times/Herald staff writers Alex Leary and Michael C. Bender contributed to this report.