1. Florida Politics

President's unraveling threatens to drag down Alex Sink

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Published Nov. 24, 2013

The special election to succeed the late C.W. Bill Young in Congress is Alex Sink's to lose, and the latest Quinnipiac poll underscores how easily one of Florida's most accomplished women very well may lose to an obscure Republican.

Fifty-seven percent of Florida voters disapprove of President Barack Obama's performance, Quinnipiac found, and Florida voters oppose the Affordable Care Act 54 percent to 39 percent.

Sink has a complicated history with Obama. Were it not for the president's political problems and the unpopularity of Obamacare in 2010, she almost certainly today would be preparing for her gubernatorial re-election campaign. Instead, the president's political problems threaten to drag down her congressional bid.

She jumped into the Pinellas County congressional race when everybody was focused on the government shutdown and the damaged GOP brand. That seems like ancient history now, given the attention on the health care law and the president's damaged brand.

Washington Republicans already are talking about dusting off some of Rick Scott's 2010 attack ads linking Sink to Obama and repeating them with only minor tinkering.

One Scott ad featured a clip of Obama talking about Sink: "I need you to raise money. I need you to walk and knock on doors. Whatever it takes, to make sure Alex Sink is the next governor of Florida." Then a narrator adds, "Maybe that's because Sink supported Obama's government takeover of health care. Or because Sink supported Obama's trillion-dollar stimulus bill, while it gave us big debts and no jobs. What will Obama do to make sure Sink is the next governor of Florida?" Obama's voice again: "Whatever it takes."

Wishful thinking?

His voice shaky, his words contrite yet hopeful, Rep. Trey Radel said Wednesday he would enter treatment for his problems but not resign. But as sorry as he seemed, a review of events raises the question of whether the 37-year-old Republican thought no one would notice he was swept up in a drug sting.

Radel was busted Oct. 29, but the arrest did not become public until Tuesday, and only then did he inform House Speaker John Boehner. Radel's legal first name is not Trey. It's Henry. So it wouldn't have popped out in court documents. In D.C. the 3.5 grams of cocaine he bought for $260 warranted only a misdemeanor, a charge that doesn't draw attention. In Florida, he would have faced a felony.

Even if he was not that naive, there's a whiff that maybe, just maybe, he'd get by.

Radel continued to vote and tweet (his nonstop presence on social media ranged from witty to partisan to buffoonish) as if nothing happened. He held a re-election fundraiser in Naples. Donors were beckoned to "Gourmet with Trey" — not a sign of a man ready to beg for forgiveness.

A week ago, Radel was the former TV reporter who happily chatted up Washington's press corps. He told the Washington Post how during the government shutdown he had to drive his wife and child home because the boy had an ear infection. He lamented the stress commuting had on his family, stress he apparently worked off by getting intimate with D.C.'s bar scene.

"I have yet to have a bad martini in DC," he told the Hill. "My favorite is Ketel One, up with blue cheese stuffed olives shaken by Mary at the Palm."

Radel checked himself into a treatment facility Thursday, vowing to return a changed man. He has not once said he has a drug problem and initially blamed the cocaine purchase on alcoholism. But court documents show a different picture: Radel had been in Washington for less than a year and had already become a regular customer of a drug dealer, who gave him up to the cops.

Radel's swift cooperation with the police — leading them to his apartment he handed over more cocaine — provided him kind treatment. He wasn't booked into jail, so no mug shot and no news attention. That ended Tuesday, and likely so did Radel's tenure as the representative for Florida's 19th congressional district.

On Bay News 9

St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman appears today on Political Connections on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. He discusses his transition team, the Rays, the Pier and more.

Politicians love to run

Sen. Bill Nelson: Lawmaker. Spaceman. Medical guinea pig.

The Florida Democrat was walking with a limp Thursday and Buzz asked what's up.

"I have had experimental …"

Whoa, that doesn't sound good.

"I'm a guinea pig. I've been a runner all my life. I just ground the cartilage down over the years. So there's a new process — and if it's successful I'll let you know because it's actually a Florida company — and they take my blood and run it through a filtration system to get the good, healing parts of the blood out and inject it back into the kneecap. We'll find out of it works."

Nelson was describing a process akin to Regenokine injections, which pro athletes have turned to in recent years.

Alex Leary contributed to the Buzz.