First thoughts on the political fall-out of the death of Congressman Bill Young

in Uncategorized by

After the unexpected death of Congressman C.W. Bill Young, who only just last week shocked the Florida political world with his announcement that he would not seek re-election in 2014, political watchers — and the Congressman’s constituents in the 13th Congressional District — cast their gaze towards Tallahassee and Governor Rick Scott, who is expected to call for a special election to fill the seat. Per the Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 of the Constitution, the governor cannot name a replacement — only call for the special election.

Young, the longest serving Republican in the House of Representatives, had recently battled serious health issues. On Wednesday, October 16, he received a call from former President George W. Bush while in the hospital, wishing him well.

Young shook up the entire political field in Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay area when he announced he would not seek re-election. Immediately, Democratic and Republican politicians at varying levels indicated their interest or withdrew their names from consideration. 

For Democrats, entry into the race would have meant an automatic primary facing attorney Jessica Ehrlich, who sought the seat last cycle and lost. Ehrlich has shown fundraising prowess, and has recently received high-profile union endorsements. 

Days ago, former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink expressed interest in running for the seat held by Young for more than 40 years. Pinellas County political insiders expressed a range of emotions after the news about Sink’s interest, mostly skeptical that a Hillsborough resident could represent a district that is now only Pinellas County (residency requirements for Congressional candidates are loose).

Republican operative Nick Zoller has announced his candidacy. Other Republicans are said to be strongly considering the race, including County Commissioner Karen Seel, and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.

Young’s death has sent a shockwave through the political establishment in a year already pegged with important political moments. Democrat Amanda Murphy’s state house victory in Pasco County over Republican Bill Gunter was seen as a harbinger of good things to come for Democrats across the state, and possibly the nation. Democratic consultant Steve Schale called it “significant,” and not a predicator, “…but a canary.”

Political handicappers were watching the St. Petersburg Mayor’s race, where incumbent Bill Foster has lurched from miscue to mis-step, and challenger Rick Kriseman has fired on all cylinders, keeping ahead of Foster in the polls.

The special election for the 13th Congressional District will draw the attention of the nation.