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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The race to succeed Bill Young



In Pinellas County, too many people to count have grown old, gray and forgotten while waiting to run for congress upon the retirement of the all but invincible U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores. Now it's finally happened, and one can hardly overstate the significance in Tampa Bay politics.

Simply put, this is the most competitive seat - and best opportunity for the Democrats to pick up a congressional seat - anywhere in Florida, if not the southeast.

In 2012, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in the district 50 percent to 49 percent, while Young had his weakest showing in decades: He beat Democratic newcomer Jessica Ehrlich by a mere 16 percentage points, 58 percent to 42 to 42 percent. In 2008, Obama won the district by 52 percent to 48 percent, while George W. Bush beat John Kerry 51 percent to 49 percent. In 2000, Al Gore won the district 51 percent to 49 percent.

One immedidate question comes to mind: Will Charlie Crist seriously consider running for the seat rather than for governor? Absurd as it sounds - who would opt to one of 435 House members rather than governor? - Crist was willing to give up the governorship to run for U.S. Senate in order to gain long-term political job security, and winning a House seat would be a lot less risky than taking on Rick "$100-million" Scott.

Though members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent, he and Carole would have to move a few blocks if they wanted to reside in there. But Crist spends enough time at his parents' place he could establish residency there. We're only half joking.

The story here may ultimately be another reminder of how weak the Democratic bench is in Florida, and even in an increasingly Democratic county like Pinellas. Jessica Ehrlich surely assumes she's terrifically positioned having been running for the seat pretty much steadily since 2011. But nobody is going to step aside for her.

More likely potential Democratic contenders would be County Commissioner Charlie Justice, who ran for the seat before; County Commissioner Ken Welch (though he doesn't live in the district); County Commissioner Janet Long; former state Rep. Rick Kriseman, should he lose the St. Pete mayor's race next month (No way he'd run for Congress, Kriseman tells Buzz); and St. Pete City Council candidate Darden Rice, who would be insane to acknowledge any interest before the votes are in for her current race.

Republicans have far more likely contenders, including state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; state Sen. Jack Latvala; County Commissioner Karen Seal; County Commissioner John Morroni; former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard; former Bill Young aide David Jolly; and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker; state House candidate Billy Young (son-o-CW Bill), to name a few. Republican consultant Nick Zoller is already letting people know of his interest, and we can expect plenty more names to start surfacing.


[Last modified: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 3:16pm]


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