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Parties watch Obamacare's effect on Alex Sink's House race

How Democratic U.S. House candidates talk about the Affordable Care Act before November's midterm elections will depend a great deal on whether Alex Sink is elected to Congress on March 11.

The heart of the campaign against her by Republican David Jolly and his allies is that Sink supports Obamacare, while Jolly would repeal it. Virtually every TV ad and mailer criticizing Sink mentions the law, and virtually every candidate and operative working on congressional campaigns is watching the Sink-Jolly race for lessons on how to approach November.

Whether or not Sink loses the special election to succeed the late C.W. Bill Young, count on Republicans to use that same central message for the midterms. But if she wins, many Democrats will be much less inclined to distance themselves from health care reform.

The former banking executive has been highly critical of the Obama administration's implementation of the law, but she also has argued aggressively that the law should not be repealed. Mend it, don't end it, in other words.

"We can't go back to letting insurance companies do whatever they want. Instead of repealing the health care law, we need to keep what's right and fix what's wrong," Sink says in one ad.

Her campaign volunteers also have delivered doughnut holes to the Jolly campaign, a stunt aimed at highlighting how repealing the law would reinstate Medicare's prescription drug doughnut hole.

Check out Sink on Political Connections today on Bay News 9, where she discusses the recent Congressional Budget Office report projecting that the Affordable Care Act will prompt many Americans to work fewer hours so they can qualify for more health care subsidies.

Republicans generally call that evidence of Obamacare devastating the economy. Sink calls it "an exciting prospect," giving Americans more choices and freedom.

"Over the years, particularly the past five, six years when we've been in this horrible economic environment, I've had so many people express to me, 'Boy Alex, I'd love to start a business or I'd love to change jobs, but I can't because I've got good health insurance at my workplace now. I'm stuck in a dead-end job and I'm not very happy in, but I have to stay here,' " she said.

A longtime resident of eastern Hillsborough County who started renting a Feather Sound condo after entering the race, Sink brushed off Jolly's suggestions that she is a carpetbagger and promised she intends to stay in Pinellas once elected to Congress. Legally, she could continue living in Thonotosassa.

"I took a yearlong lease on a very nice condo that gets me well past the November election. And then I'll use the next two years, during my next term to look around. There are so many wonderful neighborhoods. The important thing for the people in Pinellas to know is I'm no stranger here," Sink said. "I've actually been working here in the business world longer than my opponent — a 25-year history I have managing bank branches and serving on corporate boards and being a part of the civic life of this region."

Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Execution record

When Juan Carlos Chavez was put to death at 8:17 p.m. Wednesday, his execution marked the 13th on Florida Gov. Rick Scott's watch — a record among first-term Florida governors since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Since then, 83 have been executed.

Charlie Crist (2007-2011) oversaw the fewest executions, five, in his single term. (Crist, now a Democrat, is running against Scott.)

Jeb Bush (1999-2007) was the prior first-term record holder with 11 executions. He still holds the all-time record: 21.

Lawton Chiles (1991-1998) oversaw eight executions in his first term and 10 more in his second.

Bob Martinez (1987-1991), nine.

Bob Graham (1979-1987), two in his first term and 14 in his second.

And on Thursday, Scott signed another death warrant, this time for Robert Lavern Henry, who bludgeoned and burned two Deerfield Beach co-workers in 1987. Henry's execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 20.

Crist talks about hug

Crist implied on the Colbert Report Tuesday night that some Republicans oppose President Barack Obama not just because he's a Democrat, but because he is African-American.

The assertion came as Stephen Colbert was asking Crist about his infamous hug with Obama in Fort Myers in 2009: "Why do you think it ended it for you?"

"No. 1, he was there to talk about the Recovery Act, the stimulus. And a lot of Republicans took issue with that," Crist said. "Sadly I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American."

Colbert: "Oh, you're not going to play the race card."

Crist: "I'm not going to play it, no."

Colbert: "You just did. …"

Crist: "I'm just trying to tell the truth. I have seen a level of vitriol directed at this president that I have never seen directed at President Kennedy or maybe President Johnson or even President Carter."

Alex Leary and Marc Caputo contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

Winner of the week

Tampa Bay TV stations. Democrats and Republicans have spent more than $6.2 million on TV ads — many of them attack ads — in the heated special election between Alex Sink and David Jolly for Pinellas' 13th Congressional District.

Loser of the week

Jeb Bush. We can only imagine how much it grates on the former governor that virtually every time Charlie Crist appears on TV, he talks about how his former party has lost his way by quoting Bush. "He said it better than I ever could," Crist says over and over. "Today's Republican Party, at least the leadership, is perceived as being anti-women, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, anti-education, anti-gay couples, anti-environment."

Parties watch Obamacare's effect on Alex Sink's House race 02/15/14 [Last modified: Saturday, February 15, 2014 6:51pm]

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