Democrat takes her place in Cabinet


Published: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 10:59 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — Democrat Alex Sink broke the Republican hold on the state's executive branch Tuesday when she was sworn in as Florida' chief financial officer.

Sink, a former banking executive, and newly elected Attorney General Bill McCollum joined holdover Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson to take their respective oaths of office shortly before Gov. Charlie Crist and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp were sworn in.

"I've been in banking for 30 years surrounded by Republicans, so what's new?" said Sink, who is the lone woman and Democrat on the three-member Cabinet that joins Crist to oversee agencies that regulate insurance, the environment, law enforcement and invest the state's tax dollars. "I think we're going to work very well together to make the kind of decisions that are going to improve the quality of life for all Floridians."

Sink, 58, succeeds Republican Tom Gallagher, who decided against seeking re-election to the CFO post to make an unsuccessful bid for the party's gubernatorial nomination.

And Sink landed the vacancy for a Democratic Party struggling for viability in Tallahassee where Republicans dominated the state House and Senate in addition to their lockdown on the executive branch.

"I believe that a strong democracy rests on a strong two party system and I'm going to work very hard to strengthen and build the Democratic Party," Sink said moments after taking office. "Having diversity of opinion leads to making better decisions for all the people of the state."

Sink's husband, Tampa attorney Bill McBride, was the unsuccessful Democratic challenger four years ago to Gov. Jeb Bush, who left office Tuesday.

Sink took her oath of office from Charles Arnold, a Jacksonville circuit judge and McBride's friend dating back to their college days at the University of Florida.

McCollum, who replaced Crist as attorney general, said increasing the scope of a unit to combat sex crimes on the Internet would be his first priority.

Crist started the undercover unit to catch sex criminals who trade in child pornography or make plans to visit minors for sex. McCollum and Crist want to sharply increase the unit's staff.

"That is a very major part of what I want to accomplish," McCollum said after Crist's inauguration. "What we've tried to do is go undercover to make sure Florida is a safer place."

McCollum, 62, spent 20 years as a congressman from central Florida but lost bids twice for the U.S. Senate before resurrecting his political career this year.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Wells administered the oath to McCollum.

The lone holdover, Bronson, easily won re-election over an underfinanced Democratic candidate, Eric Copeland of Miami.

Bronson, 57, was initially appointed to the position by Bush in 2001 and then was elected in 2002.

A former state senator, Bronson was sworn in by Osceola County Circuit Judge Jeff Miller.

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