Even though a host of potential candidates are jockeying to succeed longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, his widow said Monday she still will jump into the race if the right person doesn't come forward.
Beverly Young, who has built her own reputation as a sharp-tongued advocate for veterans rights and wounded soldiers, made it clear in an interview Monday night that she has not yet decided to run for Congress.
She said she was still grieving for her husband, just four days after he was buried. Sometimes, she said, she still expects to get his phone calls. "I miss Bill. I want Bill home," she said.
But she also wants someone to carry on his legacy. She said she wants someone who's not worried about building their own political resume, but who will work to keep a strong military defense and fight for proper treatment of soldiers, sailors and airmen.
"He wasn't a politician, he was a person who touched people," she said. But when she looks at some people interested in the Pinellas-based seat, she said, "There are people that just want the title. And that's wrong. Go get the title somewhere else. There are people that really need help and don't have money and don't have access."
If the only candidates running are those who want to be "part of the Washington limelight … then I'll jump in," she said.
Young himself set off a frenzy of political interest when he announced earlier this month that he planned to retire at the end of his term in 2014. He had been in Congress since 1970, and was the nation's longest-serving Republican congressman. But the scene turned somber when Young died Oct. 18.
Beverly Young said the next member of Congress not only should have their heart in the right place, but they also should know the right people in Washington who actually get things done.
"You can help people anywhere you're at but when you hit Washington, you better have inside contacts because they will stomp you," she said.
That's one reason she said she thought one of Young's senior or former staff members could be good — including David Jolly, Young's former general counsel and personal attorney, who has expressed interest in the race.
In the meantime, Beverly Young said she now worries what will happen if someone desperately asks her for help for a soldier or veteran in trouble.
"They're going to call me and need help and I can't help them because Bill's not here," she said. "I'm scared to death."
Local candidates didn't say much about politics last week, out of respect for Young and his family. The political landscape remains unsettled.
"The sands shift every day and we don't know when the special election will be," said former Pinellas Commissioner Neil Brickfield, who is interested in the Republican nomination.
Also Monday, Pinellas Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat, said she would not run in the special election because she felt she was accomplishing a lot on transportation, homelessness and other issues in local government.
"We're very civil and cordial, we all get along, so we are actually getting some really big, bold things done," Long said Monday. On the other hand, "watching what has gone on in Washington over the last year or two has just really made me very frightened about where we're going and what this is doing to our young people in terms of role models."
Long said she thought Alex Sink, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Florida chief financial officer, would be a "phenomenal" candidate.
St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich ran against Young last year, and already was running again before Young died.
On the Republican side, other potential candidates include former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, Brickfield, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, former state Rep. Larry Crow, Pinellas Commissioner Karen Seel, former U.S. Senate candidate Sonya March, publisher Michael Pinson, Young's son, Bill Young II, and Young's brother, Tom.
A special election will be held to elect someone to complete Young's term, but Gov. Rick Scott has not yet announced a date.
Previously announced Republican candidate Nick Zoller said he will not run in the special election, but will run in the regularly scheduled election in fall 2014.
Libertarian Lucas Overby also is running, and like Ehrlich, had been before Young's death.