MIAMI, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's Democratic opponent for re-election in November has consistently said he has no intention of using the plight of Bush's daughter in the campaign, but some people question the way the governor is handling it.
The governor has not attended any of Noelle Bush's court appearances that began with her arrest in January when she was charged with trying to buy an anti-depressant drug with a bogus prescription.
They include Thursday's hearing in Orlando at which the 25-year-old woman was sentenced to 10 days in jail for allegedly possessing a small amount of crack cocaine at the Center for Drug Free Living, where she is undergoing rehabilitation.
Bush was at a campaign appearance with his older brother, the president, near Daytona Beach, Fla., as Noelle Bush was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs.
The governor said he avoided the hearing because he did not want to attract any more media to the hearing than were already there.
"Every parent of a child with an addiction understands that the long road to recovery is never easy and that there are numerous challenges along the way," Bush said in a statement. "This is a very difficult time for all of us who love her, and Columba and I pray every day our beautiful daughter will once again know a life free from the horrors of substance abuse."
Bush sent his younger sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, and Corey Tilley, a former aide, to be with Noelle.
"They believe it is easier on their daughter if she is given as little attention as possible," Tilley said. "And if the governor walked into the courtroom, wouldn't the governor be trying to influence the decision?"
Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas wondered in print Friday whether the governor should have shown up.
He said he thinks parents "will go with their gut on this. I'd be there with my kid. And if I think of her having to face a dozen reporters as well as the judge, I'd want to be there even more, since those reporters really are there because of me.
"If this episode hurts Jeb, this will be why. It is not that Noelle has a drug problem; it's that her dad was not there. When Noelle stood before the judge Thursday, it was with her aunt, Jeb's sister," Thomas said. "Is it fair? No, but politics isn't fair."
Professor Steve Craig, of the University of Florida political science department, said he does not think Noelle's case will have any impact on the outcome of the election.
"Personal things, particularly family issues, do not get weighed heavily by voters. There is some sympathy to start with. It's not something the opposition can campaign on because there might be a backlash," Craig said.
"We've had some fairly strange family behavior over the years. One of the things that jumps to mind is Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy Carter. He was one the true oddballs and nobody got anywhere with it," he said.
Tampa attorney Bill McBride, Bush's opponent, wants no part of the issue.
"Every parent worries about their kids, and I know the governor and his wife are worried about their children," McBride told CNN. "I just hope that all works out. I think to get those things that are very personal and family involved in politics -- I just don't want to do that."
"I'm certain the governor and his wife are worried, like I would be, and my wife, because I have teenage children. That shouldn't be a political issue," he said. "The whole question of whether or not the state is adequately helping kids is another issue."
Bush has had to fight back tears when he was asked about his daughter during the campaign, including an appearance on NBC's "Today Show" this week.
Experts in drug courts say the punishment for Noelle was appropriate and did not reflect any special treatment because of her father.
"That would have been the same treatment we would have given her here if she was Noelle Bush or Noelle Jones," said Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Rosinek, who heads the drug court program in Miami-Dade County.
But an unidentified patient at the drug center told reporters last week that Noelle gets treated "like a princess" because of who she is. Officials at the center deny it.