Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday that he will retire in 2014, putting his Gulf Coast seat in play for the first time since he was elected in 1970.
Young, 82, has long been on Washington's retirement watch list, and Wednesday's announcement could open the door for a large field of Republican challengers given their first shot at the seat in decades. According to the Times and a national Republican source, a few of the possibilities include:
- Bill Young II: Young's son, who is currently looking at running for the state legislature, but could change his mind to run for his father's seat.
- Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker: Baker has been mayor of the city that lies just south of the district since 2001 and won reelection overwhelmingly in 2005.
- State Sen. Jack Latvala: Latvala represents the northern suburbs of St. Petersburg, at the southernmost tip of the district.
- Former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard: Hibbard has ties to the business community thanks to his work as a senior vice president for Morgan Stanley.
- State Rep. Dana Young (no relation): Young's family has a long history in Florida politics. Her grandfather and uncle both served in the state legislature, and her father was an assistant secretary at the state's Department of Environmental Protection.
- Pinellas County commissioners Karen Seel and John Morroni: Pinellas County covers the entire district. Morroni has suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma but said earlier this year that his health is improving to the point that he had been considering running for reelection next year.
Democrats have already recruited their 2012 nominee, attorney Jessica Ehrlich, who lost to Young last year by 15 points. With Young off the ballot, the district becomes much more competitive, giving Ehrlich a solid shot at claiming the seat this time around. President Obama actually won the district last year by a 1.5-point margin.
But Democrats have performed well in the district in off-year elections as well. A national Democratic source pointed to former CFO Alex Sink's win there in her 2010 gubernatorial race, noting that she won the district with 51 percent of the vote, despite losing statewide.
The district is also part of former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist's home base. Crist is widely expected to run as a Democrat for governor next year, and with his name at the top of the ballot, Democrats could see a boost in turnout.
Those numbers could have other Democrats considering getting into the race. Ehrlich already has the backing of EMILY's List and has been touted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as a top recruit. But Ehrlich raised just $154,000 during the second quarter of this year; her third-quarter report is due by Oct. 15. With Young out of the race, a Democrat with a stronger fundraising base could jump into the contest.