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Democrats fire early salvo at Rep. C.W. Bill Young

Democrats are breaking new ground in a long-fought — and long-failed — attempt to defeat Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Five months after the election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for an electronic billboard that suggests the 22-term representative is a fixture of Washington partisanship. The billboard, on Ulmerton Road in Pinellas County, is only the latest salvo against Young. Robocalls have already hit him on gun control and immigration. He's been named a target by a number of liberal groups. The billboard is tied to Young's support of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget.

Democrats have reason to be hopeful: President Barack Obama won the district. But Young, 82, destroyed his last Democratic challenger, Jessica Ehrlich, as he has past foes. When Young retires, that congressional seat will be a prime opportunity for Democrats, but not before then.

Young spokesman Harry Glenn said that one of the few things Congress has done this term is pass a defense bill that came with wide bipartisan support. "This billboard is partisanship ahead of solutions," Glenn said.

Democrats disagree. "Every day when the people of Florida drive home, they think of how they will pay their bills, support their families, and pay for their health care and retirement — and now they will be reminded that Congressman Young would rather put radical ideology ahead of solutions for those worries," said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Congressman Young voted for the Republican budget that puts millionaires ahead of the middle class and partisanship before solutions. Now Congressman Young will not be able to hide from his radical record because it's in plain view."

Emphasis: medical use

People United For Medical Marijuana, the political committee hoping to get a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot, has rebranded.

The group's Web and social media handles now go by UnitedForCare.

The change is designed to "more accurately reflect what we are trying to accomplish,'' said campaign manager Ben Pollara. "To allow very ill individuals access to medical marijuana that can have a positive impact on their quality of life, not an effort to legalize marijuana.''

The old acronym — PUFMM — didn't match the message quite so well.

Crist leaving board

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will step down as a director of the St. Joe Co., a Panhandle-based real estate development and timber company. One of Florida's largest private land owners, St. Joe historically has long been considered a politically well-connected corporation in Tallahassee.

Crist informed St. Joe of his decision last month. His formal notification appears this week in the company's proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Crist, now an attorney with the Morgan & Morgan law firm and a possible Democratic challenger to Florida Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 election, said he will finish out his current term on St. Joe's board of directors but not seek re-election at the annual shareholders meeting on May 16.

Crist joined the St. Joe board in 2011.

2016 GOP contenders

The race for the 2016 Republican presidential election today looks essentially like a five-way tie — with two of the top contenders from Florida.

A national Quinnipiac poll released last week found 19 percent of Republican voters supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the nomination, 17 percent for U.S. Rep. Ryan of Wisconsin, 15 percent for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, 14 percent for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and 10 percent for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

None of the others included in the poll (Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Bob McDonnell) topped 3 percent support.

Democratic strategists

Florida Democratic chairwoman Allison Tant has tapped veteran Democratic strategist Christian Ulvert to lead the party's political operations as political director. The announcement noted Ulvert's "unique blend of both state legislative and campaign experience."

"Christian brings a deep knowledge of Florida politics and strong relationships with elected officials to the party's operations. He will be a crucial member of our team as we build upon the gains of 2012 and work towards our number one priority: defeating Rick Scott," said Tant, whose campaign for party chairwoman was managed by Ulvert.

Meanwhile, state House Democratic leader designate Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg has hired Hillsborough Democratic chairman Chris Mitchell to lead the Democrats' state House campaign program. Mitchell recently led Alan Clendenin's campaign for state chairman.

Times staff writers Stephen Nohlgren and Robert Trigaux contributed to this week's Buzz. Contact Adam Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.

Winner of the week

Ex-husbands. In a big victory for divorced men (and some women) fed up with stroking hefty alimony checks, state senators last week voted to end permanent alimony and make it harder to get alimony in marriages of fewer than 10 years.

Losers of the week

Jamie Grant and Jason Brodeur. The Republican state representatives, 30 and 37 years old respectively, didn't even complete a single term in the Legislature before wrapping themselves in the stench of self-dealing sleaze. They created a company that won a $2.4 million government contract for economic development in Hardee County, which resulted in little besides a scathing state audit and questions about where the money went. Grant, top, R-Tampa, and Brodeur, bottom, R-Sanford, so far have offered no plausible explanation.

Democrats fire early salvo at Rep. C.W. Bill Young 04/06/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 6, 2013 9:15pm]

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