With Cong. Young’s retirement, the Pinellas political dominoes will fall

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I have a unified theory about politics in Pinellas County: nothing matters until Congressman Bill Young retires. And guess what? Today, that theory was proven true by no less than the Tampa Bay Times with the image on their front page rotater just hours after Young announced his retirement, with a link to the Adam Smith piece, The Race to Succeed Young

Ten people in that picture — five Democrats, five Republicans — none of them, it should be noted, current announced Democrat Jessica Ehrlich, who I would like to second behind Peter for poor form today, indeed. The politicians quoted in Smith’s article — from County Commissioner Charlie Justice (who  former Congressional candidate who faced Young.

The email, Ms. Ehrlich and Company, goes like this:

RE: Thank you for your service, Congressman Young

Dear Supporter:

I got into this race because I believe the people of the 13th Congressional District deserve a smart, progressive voice in the House of Representatives. I believe I am that voice, and when I am in Congress, I will be your voice.

But today isn’t about me.

Today is about honoring the service of Congressman Bill Young — a man who has dedicated his incredible life to public service. Bill Young has been in Congress longer than I have been alive, and has forgotten more about politics than most politicians — Democrats or Republicans — will ever learn.

I may disagree with Congressman Young on the issues, but his rich political career gives all of us something to aspire to. In politics, we don’t have to agree. But we can honor one another.

Today, I am not asking you for a campaign donation in this email.

All I am asking is for you to thank Congressman Young for his service to this district, to Florida, and to America. Click here to thank him today.

Sincerely,

Jessica Ehrlich 

That’s what you send your supporters, complete with a link to a sign up page where a few folks can sign their name to an electronic thank-you card for the Congressman. I came up with that at ten o’clock at night in the last hours of my vacation. It’s not my best work, but it’s still better than the strange request we got from the Ehrlich campaign — sent from her iPhone, apparently? — for $13. And barely a mention of Young himself. 

Perhaps we should have known what we were in for when her first email about the government shutdown said wreckless in the subject line when they meant reckless. 

Congressman Bill Young has had an incredible career, and as an institution, he’ll be tough to replace. But in the coming days and weeks, we’ll see more names emerge for those who want to try to take his place. Maybe a County Commissioner or two (or three, or four). Both State Senators have been mentioned. State House folks have been named. Rick Baker, the former Mayor of St. Petersburg.

Each are a domino behind Young, and they will fall. Or move upward. Or back. And that’s when it gets interesting, because as the political winds in Pinellas County shift — in some respects, for the first time in more than forty years — who becomes the new class of leader in this area, rising beyond the long shadow of Congressman Bill Young?