Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Here's one for the "you learn something new every day" file. This morning a question occurred to me: How rich is Alex Sink?
It appears increasingly likely that Sink, the Democratic candidate for governor in Florida, will face off with Republican Rick Scott, who is fabulously wealthy (he has more than $218 million, perhaps far more) and not shy about spending his own money on his campaign. I was wondering whether Sink, a former Bank of America official (a potential liability), has her own fortune with which to respond.
To try to answer this question, I did what any 21st-century journalist would do: I went to Wikipedia. I didn't find the answer there, but I did learn something else. Sink is the great-granddaughter of Chang Bunker.
Chang Bunker, along with his brother, Eng Bunker, were the 19th-century conjoined twins whose stories inspired the term "Siamese Twins." Lest you think that this is just something someone put on Wikipedia to mess with lazy journalists, I have corroboration. Here's the St. Petersburg Times in 2006 providing some context:
Sink is the great-granddaughter of "the twins," as she calls them. She grew up in the house Chang and Eng built, and speaks of them both with unmistakable pride and with a little trepidation. She speaks of their commitment to education, intellectualism and the business savvy for a couple of P.T. Barnum circus attractions to decide to cut out the middleman to make enough money to become farmers. Then she acknowledges the trepidation.
Strangers would come to see her house growing up. On the streets of Mount Airy, people would sometimes stop and ask the little girl with the hint of oriental features, "Are you one of the Bunkers?"
"When I was growing up my grandmother would even refuse to talk about the twins," she said, noting how proud she had always been. "We didn't talk about it a lot. I grew up in a puritan age, and there was always the sex thing," she said, referring to twins' nearly two dozen children. Then there's the pride in community: "Here are these two circus attractions who ended up settling in redneck North Carolina and were accepted in the community."
After that, my political question seemed somewhat boring. But, I did eventually find the answer. As of last year, Sink had $8.6 million to her name. That's certainly enough to keep her out of the poor house, but not enough to keep up with Scott. Sink, however, has proven to be an excellent fundraiser -- and she does have an interesting personal story, if that's worth anything.
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