Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Longtime Pinellas Congressman C.W. Bill Young is 'gravely ill'

A week after U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young surprised the Tampa Bay area with his plans to retire, an aide confirmed Thursday that the nation's longest-serving Republican congressman has become "gravely ill."

"Rep. C. W. Bill Young's condition turned for the worse over night and he is gravely ill," read a family statement. "His doctors say his prognosis is guarded."

Young, 82, has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He announced his retirement there last week, effective after his current term expires in 2014. He was first elected to Congress in 1970 and is the longest current serving Republican in either chamber.

Young's illness was initially attributed to back issues, but it has become clear since then that he is in serious condition.

He is surrounded by family and friends. On Wednesday, Young got a call from former President George W. Bush, who thanked the lawmaker for his support of the U.S. military as former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and current head of the defense subcommittee.

News of his more serious illness spread among political insiders Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and then blew up when a local blogger and national news sites erroneously reported that Young was dead.

But the gravity of his illness does raise the prospect of what will happen if Young dies before the end of his term.

If a seat in Congress becomes vacant in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott must call a special election but the law does not specify a timetable.

By law, Scott must set the date of the special election in consultation with Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Scott's order would set dates for a special primary and a special election, as well as a deadline for candidates seeking to qualify by collecting voters' signatures on petitions rather than paying a filing fee, and deadlines for reporting campaign contributions and expenses.

A flurry of attention broke out from media and political people Thursday after local blogger and political consultant Peter Schorsch sent a Twitter message to more than 6,000 followers saying: "A relative of Congressman C.W. Bill Young tells me the iconic Republican lawmaker has passed away." He later tweeted the news was "Now confirmed with multiple sources."

But before the day was out, he posted an item on his blog titled "How I got it wrong."

Schorsch later said in an interview that two Young family members had sent him direct messages via Twitter saying Young had passed away. Later, Luke Russert of NBC News also tweeted that Young had died. Fox News went on air with the death report, later apologizing for the error. Schorsch said the Russert report plus the two family members formed the basis for his tweeting that "multiple sources" had confirmed Young's death.

The dangers of rapid-fire, breaking news have become apparent in recent cases, such as the major media institutions that erroneously reported the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down the Obamacare law. But Schorsch did not think this episode carried any larger lessons.

"I think I followed protocol. I had two sources and then I saw a major national news source put something out there. . . . I don't think there was an error in journalism here."

Schorsch noted that he has worked in Young's campaigns and greatly admires the congressman. "I don't think I've ever been happier to be wrong about a tweet than I was today."

Young changed the political landscape with last week's retirement announcement, as about a dozen potential candidates declared interest.

The potential Democratic candidates include former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink; Pinellas commissioners Charlie Justice and Janet Long; and St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich.

Potential Republicans include Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, former State Rep. Larry Crow, Pinellas commissioner Karen Seel, former Pinellas commissioner Neil Brickfield, former Young general counsel David Jolly, campaign worker and consultant Nick Zoller, and Young's son, Bill Young II.

In a telephone interview with the Tampa Bay Times last week, Young cited his health and a desire to spend more time with family. Young also recalled a conversation years ago with Sen. John Stennis in which he asked the Mississippi Democrat when Young would know it's time to leave.

"You'll know when it's time," Stennis told him.

"I'm taking that advice now," said Young.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at or (727) 893-8232.

Longtime Pinellas Congressman C.W. Bill Young is 'gravely ill' 10/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 17, 2013 11:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.