Last week, the House Republicans’ most senior member, Florida Rep. Bill Young, announced that he would retire at the end of the current term and not be on the congressional ballot for the first time since 1970. On Friday, the 82-year-old congressman passed away due to complications from a serious back operation. Young had endured chronic back problems ever since surviving a small plane crash the year he was first elected to federal office.
In the entire House, only representatives John Dingell (D-MI-12), John Conyers (D-MI-13), and Charlie Rangel (D-NY-13), had more seniority than Young. The late congressman was the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chairman. He served as full Appropriations Committee chairman from 1999-2005.
Young’s western Tampa Bay peninsula district now becomes the House’s fourth vacant seat. Gov. Rick Scott (R) soon will call a special election to fill the position for the remainder of the term. Political musical chairs were already beginning to move due to the incumbent’s retirement announcement, but now potential candidates will be forced to quickly make decisions as we head toward a special election.
All eyes will be on former state chief financial officer and gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D) who last week expressed interest in running for Congress, a month after saying she would not seek a re-match with Gov. Scott. It will also be noteworthy to see if a member of the Young family decides to enter the contest. Both his wife, Beverly Young, and 29-year-old son, Bill Young II, had been mentioned as potential contenders.
Considering FL-13 is one of 16 Republican-held congressional districts that voted for President Obama over GOP nominee Mitt Romney (50-49 percent), this special election will be highly competitive. If Sink decides to run, the Democrats will likely begin the race in the favorite’s position.
Northeast Louisiana voters went to the polls on Saturday to begin the process for choosing a replacement for Rep. Rodney Alexander (R), who resigned from the House in September to head the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. Fourteen Republicans, Democrats, and Independents were on the jungle primary ballot, and two Republicans will advance to the special general election scheduled for Nov. 16. The second-place qualifier was a surprise.
State Sen. Neil Riser (R) had been deemed the early favorite for the race, garnering the support of most of the Louisiana Republican establishment. True to form, he finished first with 32 percent of the vote. He will face businessman Vance McAllister (R) who claimed 18 percent. To finish second, McAllister out-polled the mayor of the district’s largest city (Monroe Democrat Jamie Mayo), a former US congressman (Republican Clyde Holloway), three sitting state legislators, and a former state representative.
McAllister ran as an anti-politician, opposing Obamacare and big government. His clear message galvanized a core of conservative supporters, which proved enough to propel him into the second round of voting.
Because the Louisiana primary system allows candidates from both parties to advance to the general election, it is guaranteed that the Republicans will hold the seat in November, as only Riser and McAllister will appear on the ballot.
The turnout of 103,377 voters represents only 21.5 percent of what is a massive number of registered voters for a congressional district – 481,662. When a state loses a seat in the House, as Louisiana did in the 2010 national reapportionment, it is common that the remaining districts become larger than average at least in the early part of the ensuing decade.