Friday, December 15, 2017
Opinion

Family need not feud over C.W. Bill Young's replacement

Editor's Note: This marks the first of Tampa Bay Times columnist Daniel Ruth's weekly take on Pinellas County life and politics. Since 2014 is an election year there should be no shortage of overly ripe material.

Think of this as the late C.W. Bill Young's Citizen Kane "Rosebud" moment.

If his widow Beverly's account is accurate (and unless you want to incur her evil eye, you better believe it is), as the late longtime Pinellas County member of Congress lay at rest in his hospital bed about to breathe his last, Bill Young was said to utter: "Jolly" to anoint his successor from that cloakroom in the sky.

Of course it's altogether possible that as he reflected on his long career in Washington and how the House of Representatives had descended into a more dysfunctional body than North Korea's Kim Family dynasty-lite, what Bill Young might have actually mumbled was "Folly." But we digress.

Instead the Widow Young has been adamant that her husband was knighting longtime aide and confidant David Jolly to take his House seat. And in her view, at least, that should have been that — a clear message to other potential GOP aspirants to butt out of a primary challenge to the sainted heir apparent.

But apparently not everyone received the divine message, including Young's son, Bill Young II, who has endorsed state Rep. Kathleen Peters to step into Dad's seat. And judging from the Widow Young's reaction to II's support of Peters, you would have thought the son had just announced he intended to pursue a career as a street mime in Two Egg.

"You have hurt me beyond belief," the Widow Young told II within earshot of a Tampa Bay Times reporter. Apparently it doesn't take much to induce a case of the vapors in Mommie Tearist. Tough room, the Widow Young is.

And I thought my mother was … uh, just a pinch politically intractable. After all when the diehard, rock-ribbed Nixon-Was-Shafted GOP matriarch discovered I had voted for George McGovern she practically went on a monthlong novena. Even her stigmata cried.

Then there was the time when, as a college freshman, I showed up at home with the admittedly dreadful beginnings of a beard, which led to a hurt-beyond-belief matriarch banning me from the house for the weekend. But we digress.

In essence the Jolly/Peters imbroglio is simply a case of a family rift erupting over which conservative Republican in a primary campaign should be selected to oppose former state chief financial officer, and Democrat, Alex Sink. And for that the Widow Young, in her full Scarlett O'Hara of Indian Shores mode, was acting as if her son had given up a full four-year scholarship to Harvard, or showed up for a family dinner with his new girlfriend Snooki, or had gotten a Mike Tyson face tattoo.

It is certainly probable Young gave his protege the Ronald Reagan Seal of Approval. He simply took his sweet time about it. Jolly himself has recalled that in 2010 and again in 2012, Young had talked about retiring from Congress and handing over his John Boehner crying towel decoder ring to Jolly.

But each time, just as Jolly began to assemble a campaign team and organize fundraising efforts, Young opted to hang around for another term. That's understandable. It's not easy to give up power. It also could be Young felt that for whatever reason Jolly wasn't quite ready to step into his shoes. We'll never know for sure.

In the meantime, Peters could claim she is the rightful claimant to Young's seat after the congressman's predecessor, Bill Cramer, appeared to her in an apparition encouraging her to run.

Given II's apostasy for going against his mother's channeling her husband's coronation of Jolly, it is probably safe to assume there will be a bit of a chill in the air around the Young family Christmas tree. Memo to II: If Mumsie gives you a copy of Macbeth for a present — skip the pumpkin pie.

Of course all this Borgias-on-the-Gulf family squabbling could probably be cleared up easy enough with one word — seance.

Then again perhaps the Widow Young needs to understand that Peters has every right to run for her husband's old seat. That's why it's called a democracy and not an aristocracy with titles handed down by royal decree from the hereafter.

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