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Rep. Young joins shortlist for Senate seat

Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday officially added U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young to the shortlist for the vacant Senate seat, but the Pinellas lawmaker said he is unsure about ending his career that way.

"Am I ready to be through at the end of the term? I feel good, I have a lot of energy and there is a lot of work to be done," said Young, who is 78 and was first elected to Congress in 1970.

Crist has to replace Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, who is leaving office 16 months before his term expires in 2010, citing a desire to be with family. Since the governor is running for the spot himself, he'll want to know the appointee will only serve temporarily.

In addition to Young, Crist also said Wednesday that he would consider his former chief of staff and close political adviser George LeMieux.

Others in running: Former U.S. Attorney Roberto Martinez of Miami, former Secretary of State Jim Smith, former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, R-Jacksonville.

Crist seems to be adopting a geographic strategy, giving himself a range of options but also making sure not to alienate supporters in key parts of the state.

Young, R-Indian Shores, said Crist called him Saturday and they talked for 15 minutes about what kind of person should be appointed, but that the notion of Young filling it never came up.

"I told him that 'Whoever you appoint is going to be a reflection of how you will be perceived during the campaign,' " Young said. "You want somebody who will be pretty much what you will be" in the political spectrum.

Neither man broached the subject of Young possibly filling the seat, nor has Young talked to anyone else about the job, he said.

But Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer said Tuesday that Young was among those the governor was considering and people were pushing Young behind the scenes.

"The people of this county have been good to me for 50 years and I would be hard-pressed to give that up," said Young, who spoke after presenting medals to two World War II veterans at his Seminole office.

"The truth is that I don't know that I could do much more for the people of my district in the Senate than I could in the House,'' he said.

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, said Young might be hesitant but a seat in the U.S. Senate would be a prestigious exit.

"It's kind of a reward for long service," Bilirakis said.

His name has surfaced as a candidate as well and GOP leaders in the Tampa Bay are pushing for his consideration. But Crist has not called.

Bilirakis, whose son Gus took his seat when he retired in 2006, said he would return to Washington if asked. "It would be a public service, a sense of duty."

He said he was surprised and disappointed that the current occupant, Sen. Mel Martinez of Orlando, resigned before his term expires in 2010. "It's quitting in the middle of the game."

Martinez may have been in the minority party, but his exodus leaves the state with even less clout, Bilirakis said. "The more seniority Florida has in Congress, the better it is for the public."

Alex Leary can be reached at aleary@sptimes.com.

Rep. Young joins shortlist for Senate seat 08/19/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 7:09pm]
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