Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Politics

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's death leaves political void

RECOMMENDED READING


The death of longtime U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young on Friday shakes the Tampa Bay area's political landscape for the second time in 10 days.

"I've lost my mentor, my boss and my congressman," said George Cretekos, a longtime aide of Young's who is now Clearwater mayor. "It's the end of an era as far as I'm concerned."

State Sen. Jack Latvala mourned the loss of a friend — "I love the guy, it's just that simple" — and said the entire Tampa Bay area will feel a void.

"It's a huge loss, there's no one that's going to be able to pick that ball up and run with it. You don't make up for 44 years in Congress without another 44 years. … He has taken care of our whole region just phenomenally."

Young, 82, the nation's longest-serving Republican congressman, died at 6:50 p.m. at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., surrounded by his wife, three sons, two siblings, 10 grandchildren, and close staff and friends.

"We all had a good cry," said longtime press secretary Harry Glenn.

"I lost my father, my best friend, my mentor and my hero," Bill Young II said via Twitter.

The family said the cause of death was complications related to a chronic back injury, and that information on services would be released later.

Young unexpectedly announced last week his plans to retire — at the time he anticipated finishing his term in 2014 — and more than a dozen candidates expressed interest in succeeding him. The general election would have been more than a year away.

Young's death now means a pair of special elections — a primary and a general — will be held to replace him. Under Florida law, Gov. Rick Scott must set the election dates in consultation with Secretary of State Ken Detzner, but the law does not set a specific timetable.

Even candidates who want to follow Young probably would concede they can't replace him. Elected to the Florida Senate in 1960 and then to Congress in 1970, Young rose through the ranks of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, serving as a key member even when the House was controlled by Democrats.

He continued on as Republicans gained control, eventually becoming chairman of the committee and at other times, leading the defense subcommittee. As a power broker who steered billions of federal dollars, Young used his clout to funnel millions into his home base of Tampa Bay.

When a federal commission recommended closing Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, Young brought commission members on a tour of the base and U.S. Central Command, which is housed there.

"Those commissioners were completely oblivious to how important the base was until he literally took their hand and showed them," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

To Buckhorn, a Democrat, that's just one example of how the Republican Young was "a throwback to a different time and a different place."

"Bill Young understood that finding common ground and the national interest is more important than the political party. He was always ready to reach across the aisle … and we don't see that in Washington now."

He said he would miss Young personally, and he believes the community will, too: "After watching the debacle of the last few weeks, right now we need more Bill Youngs."

After a visit with his wife, Beverly, to All Children's hospital in St. Petersburg, Young worked to create what became the National Marrow Donor Program, which is now credited with saving thousands of lives. This was one of his proudest accomplishments. It also was a classic case of Young using his most powerful weapon — control over defense spending — to finance a locally inspired project, which didn't exactly sound like a defense program.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker credited Young with developing the city's marine science corridor and supporting many economic development programs in the Midtown area.

"When I was mayor, and the city needed help from the federal government, I didn't get a lobbyist. I just called Congressman Young," said Baker, who is weighing a possible bid for the congressional seat.

"We're so fortunate in St. Pete to have had him," said former St. Petersburg police Chief and Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis, who called Young instrumental in a whole host of initiatives, especially in Midtown.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recalled a story on Friday from when the two served together in Congress.

"Once, when a major vote was pending, and the vote was tight, Bill asked the White House legislative affairs director if he could speak personally with President (George W.) Bush," Putnam recalled in a statement. "The staffer walked out with me and shared that, as it was past 2 a.m., the president was asleep."

"What are you going to do?" Putnam asked.

"Wake him up for Mr. Young," the White House staffer replied.

No one can say who will succeed Young, but this much is clear: A new freshman lawmaker is not likely to wield anywhere near the same power.

Latvala said that's one of the reasons he decided against running. "Whoever replaced him, no way they're going to be able to live up to the kind of standard that he set."

Buckhorn noted that seniority matters in Congress, and "whoever replaces him will never attain that seniority. We just have to find someone that can fill that role in a different capacity but there will never be another Bill Young."

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, semi-retired Oldsmar publisher Michael Pinson and Young's son, Bill Young II.

Times staff writers Patty Ryan, Steve Bousquet, Kameel Stanley, Weston Phippen and Danielle Paquette contributed to this report.

Comments
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Updated: 10 hours ago
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Published: 11/19/17

Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama’s Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn’t fit the evangelical mold. ...
Published: 11/19/17
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Published: 11/18/17
PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

Before gobbling turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie — or engaging in a well-informed political spat with your family — some of you might wonder where the Thanksgiving tradition originated.We wondered, too. So we talked with historians to get the facts s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y.Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t eno...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners recently decided to go after the pocketbooks of several residents who filed unsuccessful ethics complaints against one of their colleagues.If history is any indicator, the maneuver is more likely to cost taxp...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/19/17