"He was always promoting more minorities in the law," she said.
McBride left his legal career to run for office to challenge Bush's education policy, Sink said. He won the early endorsement of the state teachers union, followed by that of the state AFL-CIO.
"He just believed our state was going in the wrong direction under Jeb Bush," she said. "He ran a campaign based on supporting public education, supporting teachers and investing more money in education and he was right."
Former state Sen. Tom Rossin, who was McBride's 2002 running mate, said the contest against Reno was "a very close race" but he was able to prevail because people thought so highly of him.
"He was a real Floridian, felt very strongly about the state and its future and its ability to deal with the challenges we have," Rossin said.
After the fall election loss, McBride joined a small Tampa law firm as a partner. Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride specializes in corporate, tax and real estate law.
Sink, a former state chief financial officer, said she often sought advice from McBride during her campaign against Scott, a Republican; she narrowly lost. The couple, who married in 1987 and have a son and a daughter, made their home in Thonotosassa, outside Tampa.
"Bill McBride was a great lawyer, a devoted public servant, a veteran and a talented leader," Scott said in a statement, adding, "Florida is no doubt a better place because people like Bill McBride commit themselves to making a difference in the lives of others."
McBride, who charmed supporters with his folksy drawl, grew up in Leesburg, in central Florida. He entered the University of Florida on a football scholarship but gave it up because of a knee injury. He temporarily dropped out of law school to volunteer with the Marines in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star.
Former state Rep. Bob Henriquez, a Tampa Democrat who supported McBride's campaign, said McBride was a natural campaigner who managed to work well with Democrats and Republicans. He contributed to a wide range of causes in the Tampa community, Henriquez said.