Many aspire to fill Young's seat
By WILL VAN SANT
Published November 19, 2006
County Commissioner Karen Seel wants the U.S. House seat on which C.W. Bill Young has had an iron lock since he took office in 1970.
A centrist Republican with a brainy grasp of policy, Seel is friends with Young, who was elected Nov. 7 to his 19th House term. Seel said Young would have to step aside before she would embark on a bid for Congress.
"I'm interested," said Seel, 48, of Clearwater. "I would consider doing it were it the appropriate time and the appropriate situation."
Speculation on who will succeed Young has been a political parlor game for years in Pinellas. Most local politicos of any distinction have been rumored at one time or another to have the seat in their sights.
The common wisdom is that nobody can defeat Young, the House's longest-serving Republican and a champion at directing federal money to local projects. But contenders likely will step forward in droves once he decides against another run.
Young, 75, said he has not decided whether he will seek another term in 2008.
"I am getting older," he said. "But I still have a lot of energy, and my health is good."
Given Young's length of service, his age and the GOP's recent loss of majority status in Congress, speculation on when he will step down should be expected, said Darryl Paulson, a professor of government at the University of South Florida.
And for hopefuls, it's not too early to go public with their ambitions, Paulson said.
"The advantage goes to the early bird," he said. "You have to start creating the framework for a run down the road."
One often-heard rumor is that Young is keeping the seat warm for a family member, perhaps his 22-year-old son, Bill, who would not be old enough to run for the House until 2010.
The younger Young, a political science major at USF, volunteered on Charlie Crist's campaign for governor. Paulson, who has had Bill Young as a student, said he understands the son aspires to his father's office.
"It's certainly not uncommon in American politics to have this legacy situation," Paulson said. "But obviously, his youth would be an issue."
C.W. Bill Young said his son would make an impressive contender someday, but he is advising him to move deliberately.
"I'm trying to convince him to establish himself in some kind of professional capacity before he enters the political world," he said.
Also sometimes mentioned as a replacement for Young is St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. But both publicly and privately, Baker has said his ambitions run more toward the executive rather than the legislative branch of government.
Though Young owns the 10th Congressional District, it's not a sure win for the GOP once he steps down. In 2000, Al Gore took 51 percent of the vote in the 10th District; in 2004, President Bush took 51 percent.
The one Democrat often talked about as a Young successor is County Commission Chairman Ken Welch, who said he has an interest in the seat. But Welch's St. Petersburg home is just outside the district's boundary. He would have to move in order to run.
If Seel does attempt a run for Young's seat someday, she has some Washington experience to bank on. Since joining the County Commission in 1999, Seel has made lobbying Washington on behalf of county interests - particularly transportation funding needs - one of her priorities.
So what kind of congresswoman would Seel make? Not too dissimilar to Young, she said.
"He has really been a statesman," Seel said. "I would try to emulate many of the stands he has taken."
Will Van Sant can be reached at 727 445-4166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified November 18, 2006, 20:42:09]
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