Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Who believed this would be Republican field to succeed Rep. C.W. Bill Young?

Like characters in an Agatha Christie novel, the leading suspects have all vanished. Unexpectedly. Inexplicably. One after another.

There was the longtime county commissioner. The sheriff. The former mayors of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. One state senator, and then another. Even the widow, brother and son of the dearly departed hero.

The most recognizable names in the Republican Party in Pinellas County have all politely declined to run for a congressional seat owned by the GOP for four decades.

And now there are only two.

David Jolly, the former general counsel for the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, was the first to declare. State Rep. Kathleen Peters is expected to announce her candidacy today.

So everyone who had the Peters-Jolly matchup in the Republican primary sweepstakes, please raise your hand.

I mean no disrespect to either candidate, but this is not the star-studded field you might have expected for a seat seen as critical to the Republican Party's fortunes in Congress.

Folks have been speculating, plotting and maneuvering for years in anticipation of this seat finally coming open. One would-be candidate said it should have been a bloodbath with a half-dozen politicians elbowing their way to the front of the line.

Instead, the frontrunner is a guy nobody had heard of a month ago. And his presence was so underwhelming, a freshman state legislator had to be recruited as an alternative.

What gives? Where are the big names? Why does everyone else suddenly have something better to do?

As you might expect, there is no single answer. It is more like an accumulation of factors that led to the abandoning of the ship until only a couple of deckhands remained.

For instance, being a member of the House of Representatives doesn't have the cache you might expect. Considering approval ratings for Congress rival those of household insects, it makes the campaign trail seem less enticing.

There is also the sense among some elected officials that they can accomplish more in their current positions than they could at the bottom of the seniority pool in the U.S. House of Representatives. You could put state Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes in this category, as well as Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

For some potential candidates in the business world, there might be economic concerns that make this poor timing. Former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker might fit in that category.

Facing a well-known and well-financed Democratic candidate in Alex Sink also plays a role. This seat may have belonged to Republicans since the Nixon administration, but there is no guarantee that moderate Pinellas voters will have the same warm feelings for the next GOP candidate as they did for Young.

This doesn't mean Jolly or Peters can't win. And it doesn't mean they aren't quality candidates. Jolly is showing strong fundraising skills, and Peters will get a lot of help from the movers and shakers in Pinellas politics.

The point is there were more obvious candidates.

For years, there was a Who's Who type quality when it came to guessing which politician would end up as the successor to the venerable Young.

And in the end, it's turned into more of a Who's That?

Who believed this would be Republican field to succeed Rep. C.W. Bill Young? 11/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, November 18, 2013 9:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  3. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]
  4. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  5. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]