A promising name emerged Tuesday in Gov. Charlie Crist's search to fill Mel Martinez's U.S. Senate seat: U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. GOP officials confirmed that the Indian Shores Republican is on Crist's short list of potential replacements. Young — if willing — outshines every other candidate so far acknowledged by the governor's office. Even though his appointment to the Senate would force a special election for his Pinellas congressional seat, he represents the best choice for Crist and the citizens of Florida.
As the longest serving member of his party in Congress, Young would make the most of the remaining 16 months of Martinez's term. He has worked with eight presidents and seven House speakers since taking office in 1971. He's been a backbencher and at the center of power, serving for six years as the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Despite Washington's partisan rancor, Young has a reputation for collegiality with members of both parties. And he has served the 10th Congressional District well.
As the Senate grapples with everything from health care reform to reining in the federal deficit, Young is the best situated to work with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to make sure Florida plays an influential role in any outcome.
Young also was chosen by at least some Florida voters to represent their interests in Washington. No other candidate currently under consideration can claim the same, after U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, removed himself from consideration. The lobbyists, lawyers and political allies that populate Crist's short list all would bring their own conflicts of interest to a job for which they have little preparation. Even former Tampa mayor and Gov. Bob Martinez is now a lobbyist and never held elective office in Washington.
Finally, Young, 78, has been unclear about whether this congressional term, his 20th, will be his last. Crist, who is running for the Senate seat in 2010, is expected to extract a promise from whomever he picks that he or she will not seek re-election. A promotion to the Senate would be a fitting end to Young's distinguished Washington career.
It remains unfortunate that Mel Martinez, an Orlando Republican, reneged on his promise to voters by resigning before his six-year term expired. But given the circumstances, Crist now has a fine option for replacing Martinez if Young is willing.