The most impressive legacy of U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, who announced his retirement from Congress Wednesday, could be the time he told Gov. Charlie Crist “no thanks.”
Young had been in the running to fill Mel Martinez’s remaining Senate term, as one of 10 candidates along with former U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis.
Adam Smith wrote about the exchange in 2009.
Crist summoned Young, already a Tampa Bay political icon and a U.S. representative for much of the governor’s life, to interview for the Senate position.
To Crist’s surprise, the Indian Shores Republican arrived at the meeting in an untucked polo shirt and sneakers, and the 78-year-old proceeded to take charge — telling the Governor directly he was not interested in an interim role as U.S. Senator.
“I have the best job in the world now, and I work for the best people in the world. I would not want to leave in the middle of a term. I’m not a quitter,” Young told the Times after meeting Crist at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. “Truth of the matter is I can do far more for Florida and Pinellas County where I am than if I took a different job.”
Crist had flown in to Pinellas County from Miami, where he had also interviewed former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw. While waiting for Young to arrive, Crist mentioned he was certain Young would fill out the questionnaire required for consideration.
Crist received his “no thanks” answer after a 40-minute closed-door meeting, then meeting the press.
“One of the greatest human beings I know is the man who stands to my right,” Crist said enthusiastically, adding that 50 years prior Young became the sole Republican in the Florida Senate on the same day Crist’s father was voted a member of the Pinellas School Board.
After several minutes, a reporter asked the crucial question — if Young is applying for the Senate.
Nope, Young replied. He was not interested.
For his casual attire, Young told reporters it was because he was running a tight schedule — meeting the Gvernor between his granddaughter’s gymnastics and ballet classes.
As the fifth person who refused Crist’s call for the Senate appointment, Young was on a list that included former Sen. Connie Mack and U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Crist also asked former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings and Gulf Power chief executive Susan Story.
The Senate post eventually went to George LeMieux, Crist’s former campaign manager and chief of staff. LeMieux would subsequently drop out of the race against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012.