Bombshell in Tampa Bay politics: Congressman C.W. Bill Young won’t seek re-election

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U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young announced Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in 2014, according to Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times.

The 82-year-old Indian Shores Republican, who holds the record as the longest-serving GOP member of Congress, will retire next year at the end of his term. Young said there are several reasons for his decision, including his health and time with his family.

Young spoke with the Times in a telephone interview from Walter Reed Medical Center, recalling a conversation he once had with Mississippi Sen. John Stennis. Young asked the Senator when is a good time to retire.  

“You’ll know when it’s time,” Stennis responded.

Young’s retirement announcement marks the close of a 53-year political career that began as a Republican in the Democrat-led Florida Senate, to chair the powerful U.S. House Appropriations Committee.

Over his 17 terms in Washington D.C., Young brought hundreds of millions of dollars in to the Tampa Bay area. He was instrumental in developing defense contracting in the area, creating jobs and boosting the local economy.

At the same time, the Times writes, Young became a symbol of over-the-top government spending, a king of the political pork barrel. Young often was the subject of government watchdog groups, using him as an example of the need for reform.

In 2010, Young either sponsored or co-sponsored more spending bills than anyone else in the House, for a total of $128 million. When called on his spending patterns, Young was always quick recite the section in the Constitution giving Congress the power to spend.

“Article 1, Section 9 is very specific,” Young would say.

After Young’s life in Congress serving through eight U.S. presidencies, in 2010 House Speaker Boehner eventually granted him an exception to the term limits on committee leadership. That meant Young could continue chairing the full House appropriations committee and its defense subcommittee.

Although Republican Young was likely to win re-election in his Pinellas County area, his exiting the race puts the local political scene in disarray. Pinellas has recently leaned Democratic, going to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Florida’s Thirteenth Congressional District includes sections of Pinellas County from Dunedin to Tierra Verde, but not downtown St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar or East Lake.

Attorney Jessica Ehrlich has been the leading Democratic name in the race, but with Young’s retirement, there are likely to be other leading Republicans to run for the empty House seat.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and Pinellas County commissioners Karen Seel and John Morroni have been mentioned as possible Republicans that would take over Young’s seat. Bill Young II, Young’s son, has also talked of running for the Florida state House next year.

As for Young’s post-Congress plans, he hinted to the Times that it might not be a complete retirement.

“I guess I’ve got to get another job,” he told the reporters, laughing. “I’ve served in the Congress, but I’ve never made a lot of money. My financial situation isn’t much different than when I came to Congress.”

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.