U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young cruised to his 21st term in Congress, despite an injury-addled campaign against state Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg.
"It makes me feel very, very lucky to know that after all of these years . . . they supported a campaign that was based strictly on issues, strictly on performance," Young said, noting people didn't believe Justice's many attacks on him.
Justice said it "obviously was a tidal wave year for the other side with turnout and everything," but he expressed deep pride in his campaign's supporters.
"No one's held Bill Young accountable for the fact that he's taken the seat for granted," Justice added. "Maybe this campaign was a little bit of a wake up call."
A race that could have been a credible contest — a 10-year state lawmaker versus an incumbent congressman — never got off the ground. Despite complications from back surgery and a distaste for debates, Young, 79, started his campaign in February and never looked back.
Young spent Tuesday checking out turnout at a few polling places and carrying out an election tradition: speaking to the St. Petersburg Sertoma Club. His election party was at the Sheraton Sand Key hotel in Clearwater Beach.
Young outspent Justice nearly 3-to-1 while making few public appearances in a district where he's well known. But he ran advertisements on television that Justice couldn't afford.
Justice, 42, constantly chipped at Young's prolific earmarking and ties to lobbyists. Justice announced his bid amid rumors of Young's retirement, insisting he wasn't gambling on Young's decision.
Nevertheless, Justice's defeat also opens up his state Senate seat and sends him back to his job as an adviser at the University of South Florida.
Young said House Republican leaders offered him virtually any slot if he ran again, and he likely will seek to return as chairman of the defense appropriations panel.
David DeCamp can be reached at email@example.com.