Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Floridians reflect on Sen. Ted Kennedy's life, politics

Whether they considered themselves allies or foes of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the famously liberal Democrat's death was mourned across Florida's political spectrum Wednesday.

Republicans and Democrats alike couldn't deny the influence of Kennedy, who died Tuesday from brain cancer at age 77.

"Most Americans cannot remember a time without Ted Kennedy," said Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. "Whatever your political persuasion, you had to respect his lion-like conviction."

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, considered himself a longtime friend of Kennedy, as the two worked together primarily on health issues.

"If we had different opinions, which we did from time to time, we just talked them out," he said. "Ted Kennedy was always a gentleman and always respectful of those he was dealing with."

Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, whose mother was the first black woman elected to the Florida Senate, credited Kennedy for everything from "strengthening the quality of education for our students, to improving the quality of health care for our seniors, to ensuring equality and civil rights for all Americans."

"Sen. Kennedy did not simply live for the Senate — he was the heart of the Senate," Meek said in a prepared statement Wednesday morning. "Respected by all of his colleagues, Sen. Kennedy's thoughtfulness, conviction and passion were attached to signature pieces of legislation that have profoundly shaped our nation for the better."

Having served as chief counsel and staff director for the U.S. Senate's investigations committee, state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said he was impressed with Sen. Kennedy's ability to command respect from polarized sides of issues.

"He knew how to passionately defend his core beliefs and stand on principle, yet his fingerprints are on countless laws passed during both Republican and Democratic presidencies," Gelber said in a statement.

Former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack worked with Kennedy on health policy issues such as stem cell research, women's health and assistance for people living with HIV and AIDS. He also expressed his condolences through a statement.

"Despite our ideological differences, Ted worked with my Republican colleagues and me to forge bipartisan solutions on some of the most important and complex public health challenges facing our nation," Mack said.

Former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman said she had only met Sen. Kennedy once at a conference, and she could barely recall the encounter. But observing Sen. Kennedy's career and political views throughout her life may have shaped her own career.

"From my perspective, he's the most memorable senator in my memory, and probably in my lifetime," said Freedman, 65, who was mayor from 1986 to 1995. "He's certainly been supportive of women. I was always amazed at how much he did for people with disabilities, the handicapped and poor. And I spent a lot of my lifetime working with those less fortunate, so I think in that regard, I can relate."

Sen. Kennedy's imprint undoubtedly made its way into all corners of Florida politics, as several notable public officials — Democrats and Republicans — have either worked with or for the senator.

George Sheldon, a veteran Tampa politician who now heads Florida's Department of Children and Families, began his career as a college intern to Kennedy. And St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons, a Republican who worked to help elect Govs. Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, was once an aide to the liberal senator.

Emily Nipps can be reached at or (727) 893-8452.

Floridians reflect on Sen. Ted Kennedy's life, politics 08/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:54am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What ever happened to the Zika epidemic?


    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer …

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, responsible for transmitting Zika, sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz Institute in Recife, Brazil. Cases of the virus are down dramatically this year in Florida, the result of awareness efforts, experts say. But the public, they add, should not let its guard down. [Associated Press]
  2. Pinellas licensing board needs cash. Will the county give it any?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– The grand jury that said Pinellas County should not take over the troubled construction licensing board also said the county should bail out the agency before it goes broke in 2018.

    Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long isn't keen on the idea of the county loaning money to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board afloat. The county has no say over the independent agency, which could run out of funding in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Is the Bundt cake back? How retro baked goods are becoming trendy again


    Once there were grunts and slumps, buckles and brown betties. Oh, and pandowdies and sonkers. In the olden days, people routinely made angel food cakes, tomato soup cakes and hummingbird cakes. These were not Duncan Hines mixes, but rather confections made from scratch following yellowed and stained recipes in your …

    Nothing Bundt Cakes in Tampa offers a variety of options, from tiny “bundtinis” and 10-inch cakes that serve 18 to 20 people. Core flavors include lemon, marble, red velvet and chocolate-chocolate chip, with featured flavors like confetti.
  4. What you need to know for Monday, Sept. 25


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Craig Butz, executive director of Pepin Academies and former professional hockey player, died in a crash with a boat Saturday. His daughter Teagan, 4, remained in critical condition Sunday afternoon. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   TIMES, 2013]
  5. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.