Bill McBride, the Florida Democrat who came out of nowhere to defeat Janet Reno for the party's 2002 gubernatorial nomination but then lost to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, has died at the age of 67, his wife said Sunday.
McBride suffered a heart attack Saturday while visiting with family in Mount Airy, N.C., said Alex Sink, who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, losing to now-Gov. Rick Scott.
McBride had suffered from heart problems for many years but, Sink said, "this was very sudden and unexpected."
A Tampa attorney, McBride captured his party's gubernatorial nomination against the better-known Reno, who was U.S. attorney general under President Bill Clinton.
McBride had been managing partner at the prestigious Holland & Knight law firm before unsuccessfully trying to deny Bush a second term.
Bush tweeted his condolences, "Thoughts and prayers are with Alex and Bill's entire family."
Florida Democrats remembered McBride as a party advocate and public servant. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., called McBride "larger than life."
"He was one of the great business, legal and political leaders of Florida, and he is a friend that many of us will miss," Nelson said.
Sink said McBride's legacy as an advocate for civil rights outshines his brief political career.
"He was always a promoter of equality," Sink said, adding that her husband championed survivors of the Rosewood racial massacre, pro bono legal work and gay rights.