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. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]