Democrats Looking to Retire Young

Posted April 3, 2009 at 5:33pm

After targeting Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) in radio commercials earlier this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is returning to the 10th district airwaves over the Easter recess with a new ad focusing on Young’s opposition to the Democratic-led economic recovery package.

Young is one of just six Republicans targeted in the latest DCCC campaign.

The early pressure on the 20-term Congressman could be interpreted as a strategic move to get Young to think twice about running again in 2010.

Young, 78, has been the subject of retirement speculation for about a decade. And with his St. Petersburg-based district becoming ever more favorable for Democrats, party insiders have been increasingly eager for the veteran legislator to step off the Congressional stage.

But Young’s chief of staff, Harry Glenn, said that, if anything, the DCCC’s efforts will end up having the opposite of their desired effect.

“They did this to him two years ago, they ran targeted radio ads in his district, and if it does anything it just makes [Young] more energized to run again,— Glenn said.

Young, who had more than $470,000 in his campaign account at the end of 2008, has brushed off any talk of a retirement this cycle as wishful thinking on Democrats’ part.

Young told the Buzz, a St. Petersburg Times blog about Florida political news, last week that he never decides whether to run again until an election year, but he also said he doesn’t plan on quitting.

“The rumors of my retirement have been [surfacing] for six to eight years, and for some reason they always come out of Tallahassee,— Young told the blog.

But Democratic operatives believe that the demographics of the district have shifted enough in their favor that they don’t have to wait for Young to retire in order to target the seat.

“It’s going to be an anti-incumbent year,— Florida Democratic consultant Dave Beattie said. And that combined with the large increase in new voters in the district in 2008 who aren’t familiar with Young means that “it’s a good enough seat to target, regardless— of whether the Congressman is on the ballot, he said.

Democrats are keeping a close eye on St. Petersburg-area state Sen. Charlie Justice (D), the Minority Leader in the chamber.

DCCC officials were high on Justice last cycle, but after taking a look at the race, the state Senator took a pass. Considering Obama’s performance in the 2008 presidential election, Democrats are hopeful that Justice will take the leap this year. Justice was first elected to the Senate in 2006, after serving six years in the state House.

DCCC spokeswoman Jessica Santillo also indicated that the party is ready to make a serious bid for the seat even if Young decides to stay.

“Representative Young’s record of voting in lockstep with the party of no’ against cutting taxes, helping struggling homeowners, and getting the economy on track make him out of step with his constituents and even more vulnerable in 2010,— she said.

Young has never really been tested since winning his seat in 1970, with 67 percent of the vote. His re-election percentage has dipped below 60 percent only once, in 1992, when he won a 12th term with 57 percent.

But the district’s voters have increasingly voted for Democrats at the state and national levels.

Democrat Al Gore won the district with 51 percent in the contentious 2000 presidential race, but after GOP redistricters sought to shore up the district for the party in 2002, President George W. Bush won the district with 51 percent in 2004. Last November, President Barack Obama won the district by 4 points.

Last month, House Republicans honored Young with the Ronald Reagan award and a tribute at their annual fundraising dinner, and they said any talk of his vulnerability is unrealistic.

“Bill Young has dedicated most of his life to serving the people of Florida with unshakable commitment and utmost fervor and his constituents not only admire and respect him, but have continuously re-elected him by vast margins,— National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said. “The Democrats’ efforts in this district are just wishful thinking on their part. They’ve tried challenging Young before and have never succeeded, so we welcome them to waste more resources on their pipe dream.—

Meanwhile, the DCCC’s “Tax Man— radio ad will begin during drive time today and run for a week.

The 60-second spot features a fictional married couple, Rob and Sue, who are discussing the benefits of the economic recovery package with their tax accountant.

“Washington is looking out for us for a change,— Sue says in the ad.

“Yeah, but no thanks to our local Congressman Bill Young,— the accountant responds.

“Young voted against tax breaks for folks like us?!?— Rob chimes in.

“That’s right. You should check the record,— the accountant says.

“I will. I just wish Bill Young would start looking out for us for a change,— Rob says at the end of the ad.