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GOP Rep. Bill Young’s death creates a scramble for Florida House seat

Democrats hope to flip seat from a district President Obama carried

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics editor

florida mugCLEARWATER, Florida (CFP) – The death of Republican icon Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young of Florida has opened up a Tampa Bay-area district, giving Democrats one of their best prospects of flipping a seat anywhere in the South.

A slew of Republican and Democratic candidates are considering the race to replace Young, who died October 18 at the age of 82. His death will necessitate a special election to fill the remainder of his current term, with a second election to follow in 2014.

Under Florida law, Republican Governor Rick Scott will decide when the special election will take place. He has not yet set a date.

The late U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young

The late U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young

Young’s 13th House District is one of just three districts in the South held by Republicans that President Barack Obama carried in 2012. The other two are Virginia’s 2nd District, held by Rep. Scott Rigell, and Florida’s 27th District, held by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

After Young announced his retirement just days before he died, two candidates – Democrat Jessica Ehrlich, who ran unsuccessfully against Young in 2012, and Republican Nick Zoller, a political consultant – said they would run in 2014.

In the wake of Young’s death, other candidates have stayed on the sidelines out of respect for the veteran congressman, who had represented the Saint Petersburg area in Congress since 1970.

Zoller told the SaintPetersBlog that he while he still planned to run in 2014, he would not run in the special election, suggesting that Young’s widow, Beverly, be elected to finish his term. Young’s son, Bill Young II, has also been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate to replace his late father.

Alex Sink

Alex Sink

Much of the speculation on the Democratic side has centered around Alex Sink, Florida’s former chief financial officer, who narrowly lost a race for governor in 2010 to Scott.

Earlier this year, Sink decided against a rematch with Scott but has told local media that she is interested in running in the 13th District. However, Sink does not live in Pinellas County, where the district in located. She lives in neighboring Hillsborough County, and it is unclear whether ambitious Pinellas Democrats would allow her to parachute in without a fight.

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