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Sen. Jim King shows his soft side

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A must read from the Ledger: Senator Jim King, R-Jacksonville, is inarguably one of the Legislature’s most colorful and respected members. A 22-year veteran in the House and Senate, King’s legacy as a knowledgeable legislator skilled at winning support for, and against, proposed laws is secure.

But King’s primary reputation has been as a classic carouser. With a physical stature and comedic timing evocative of the stout Jackie Gleason, many a night on the Senate floor was concluded with a gaggle of reporters surrounding King as he announced he was done talking as cocktails and steaks awaited.

So it struck the insular world of Tallahassee hard in May when King announced he had pancreatic cancer, a particularly harmful disease that is usually fatal.

After weeks of silence, with updates on his treatment kept on a Web site, King said last week with an e-mail that he was cancer-free. What followed was a classic King statement – rambling and pensive and comic – that revealed a rare human side of a lawmaker.

“I consider myself one of the luckiest individuals in the medical world. There are so many people I need to thank and some of you who know me well, I hope will understand when I say, God is on the top of that list! We faced crisis after crisis, we had set backs with enough disappointments to last most people a life time, but we said we would fight and as of this moment – we are winning. Does this mean that the fight is over? Not by a long shot. I am one of the five percent of survivors to make it this far and I am not so naive to think that things could not change ugly quickly, but I know I have a fighting chance and I am thankful to be in a rare and unique group.”

King then wrote that he “should have paid more attention to Sen. Dan Webster,” the pious former lawmaker whose retiring credo for lawmakers included admonitions to stay away from Tallahassee watering holes.

King said he will return to Tallahassee a changed man, a thought that must have caused mixed feelings among bar and restaurant owners.

“To the people that I’ve ‘run with’ for the last 20 plus years, this does not mean that I am coming back with a starched collar or judgmental preconceptions. I still have many of my same views in regard to individual decision making, health privacy issues, etc., but I can assure you that the person that went in to this hospital two weeks ago today is a different person coming out. My recovery period for this surgery could be as much as a year and it will be a year of some significant life style changes for me – such as no alcohol, limited diet and a reemphasis on healthy living. (I can just visualize some of you reading this and thinking – boy, is Jim ever going to be boring.)”

King then thanked his wife, Linda, who “stayed by my side, held my hand, yelled at me when I needed it and cuddled me when I needed more than anything to be reassured. I hope to see you all soon.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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