Rep. Bill Young (R)
Elected: 1970, 20th term.
Born: Dec. 16, 1930, Harmarville, PA .
Home: Indian Shores.
Education: St. Petersburg H.S..
Family: Married (Beverly); 6 children.
Military career: Army Natl. Guard, 1948-57.
Elected office: FL Senate, 1960–70, Min. ldr., 1966–70.
Professional Career: Aide, U.S. Rep. William Cramer, 1957–60; Insurance executive.
The congressman from the 10th District is Bill Young, a Republican first elected in 1970. He is the most senior Republican in the House, and only three Democrats have more seniority than he does. He grew up poor in a Pennsylvania coal town. His first home was a shotgun shack that was swept down a river when he was 6 years old. At 16, he was shot in a hunting accident. The family moved to Florida, and Young dropped out of high school to support his ill mother by hauling concrete blocks and mixing mortar. At age 25, he applied for a job as an insurance salesman and ultimately ran a successful insurance agency. In the 1950s, he worked for St. Petersburg’s first Republican congressman, William Cramer, and got the politics bug. Young was elected to the state Senate in 1960, at age 29, and was the lone Republican there. When Cramer ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970, Young ran for his House seat and won.
|Bill Young (R)||182,781||(61%)||($969,224)|
|Bob Hackworth (D)||118,430||(39%)||($155,590)|
|Bill Young (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (100%), 2000 (76%), 1998 (100%), 1996 (67%), 1994 (100%), 1992 (57%), 1990 (100%), 1988 (73%), 1986 (100%), 1984 (80%), 1982 (100%), 1980 (100%), 1978 (79%), 1976 (65%), 1974 (76%), 1972 (76%), 1970 (67%)
Young has a moderate to conservative voting record. Early on, he got a seat on Appropriations, where he, like many Republicans, worked closely with the Democratic chairmen through many years in the minority. When Republicans finally won control of the House in 1994, Young did not rise to full committee chairman though he had the seniority to do so. Speaker Newt Gingrich passed over him, as well as two more senior Republicans, for being too accommodating to Democrats. With some reason: After 34 years as a minority-party legislator, Young’s instincts were bipartisan. “I came into the majority party with this strong conviction that every member of Congress has been elected by their constituents and should be given respect,” he said at the time. “I’ve tried to deal with anybody on that basis, whether it is a first-term freshman or a 20-year veteran.” But he certainly was not left powerless. He assumed the chairmanship of the defense appropriations subcommittee, giving him considerable sway over U.S. defense spending. In that role, he worked to produce bipartisan appropriations out of the spotlight.
In 1998, Young considered retiring, but at the end of the year he finally got the full committee gavel. Three days after the November election, when Republicans suffered stinging losses, Gingrich decided to resign as speaker. In the subsequent leadership reshuffling, Young took over as Appropriations chairman from Bob Livingston of Louisiana. He stayed in the job six years, until 2004, the maximum allowed under GOP rules. During the Bush era, Young was caught between White House demands to hold down spending and the rank and file’s enormous appetite for earmarks, the special projects for home districts. For the most part, he came down on the president’s side, but he demurred when the administration tried to get him to end earmarking altogether. Always the appropriator at heart, he also chafed at various attempts by the Budget Committee to impose caps on spending. Ever the bipartisan conciliator, he refused repeated demands from the Republican leadership to reduce the amount of projects for Democratic appropriators.
Young by no means ignored his own district or his own self-interest when it came to earmarking. “I try to make sure things that are needed in the whole state of Florida are taken care of,” he once said. But he has also not been immune to the ongoing controversy surrounding earmarks, and in 2008, two of his earmarks dinged his reputation for high ethical standards. The St. Petersburg Times reported that he had directed $45 million to defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. after the company hired his 20-year-old son, Patrick, as a security administrator, though Patrick had only a GED and scant work experience. The newspaper also reported that Young had directed $28 million over nine years to another company that had employed another son, Billy Young, 23, for almost a year. The senior Young said that the companies got the earmarks on merit, not because they hired his children.
One of Young’s special projects has been the bone-marrow donor program, originated by Dr. Robert Good of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. Among his other earmarks in recent years were $20 million for the Florida National Guard, $750,000 for state police athletic leagues, $2 million to help colleges and universities prepare for hurricanes, $100,000 for a waterfront park at St. Petersburg Airport, and $344,000 for research on the interaction of medications and grapefruit juice. As head of the defense subcommittee, he took an avid interest in Florida’s many military installations. MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, across the bay from St. Petersburg, is the headquarters of Central Command and Special Operations Command. Young has pushed through a $25 million intelligence and operations center and $78 million for a conference center for SOCOM, as well as $31 million for more family housing.
He also pays close attention to veteran’s issues. In the 1970s, he persuaded Congress and President Ford to build the Bay Pines Veterans Medical Center in St. Petersburg, now the second largest veterans’ hospital. Since the Iraq War began in 2003, Young and his wife, Beverly, have visited wounded soldiers almost every week at military hospitals, including Walter Reed Army and Bethesda Naval Hospitals. Sometimes they found care lacking—a soldier sitting in a pool of urine, a sergeant’s brain surgery delayed because of malfunctioning equipment—and they regularly complained to Gen. Kevin Kiley at Walter Reed and others officers. In 2007, the Washington Post published a series of stories about wretched conditions at the facility, which led to reforms. After the story broke, Young was attacked by Florida Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman, a former House member, for not reporting the abuses he saw during his visits there. Young accused Thurman of a “personal smear campaign” against his family, and prominent Democrats came to his defense as well. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, said that he was “embarrassed” by the partisan criticism of Young, which he called “totally baseless.”
The trend toward Democrats in Pinellas County for years had not posed any threat to Young. But Republican redistricters in 2002 made the district more Republican, so that the party could hold it when he retires. Still, Democrats can be expected to target the district. Young’s son, Billy, is sometimes mentioned as a possible successor when his father retires.