Dogged by poor health and at age 82, Florida's Rep. C.W. (Bill) Young announced on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in 2014 after serving 43 years in the House.
Coming barely a week after 22-year Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama also said he would forego another run, Young's exodus raises two fresh political questions for the Republican Party: will more of the GOP's "old lions" say they are leaving the House next year, and, if so, does this enhance the clout of the "young tigers" and tea partiers who have been in the forefront of the recent showdown with the Obama White House?
"I don't know of anyone else who is going to be announcing retirement, although I would imagine there wouldn't be more than one or two others at the most," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, a Oregon Republican, told Newsmax minutes after Young's announcement Wednesday.
Related: CW Young, Longest-Serving Congressional Republican, to Retire
Along with Young and Bachus, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and five-termer John Campbell of California have announced they will not seek re-election next year. Six other House Republicans are relinquishing their seats to run for the U.S. Senate and two others — Jo Bonner of Alabama and Rodney Alexander of Louisiana — resigned to take jobs in their respective states.
Since he came to Washington in 1970, Young — a high school dropout who educated himself, went into business, and served in the Florida state senate — has sported a strongly conservative record. However, he also believed in "bringing home the bacon."
As the New York Times noted, Young "has long served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, including as its chairman from 1999 to 2005. In Florida his name adorns roads, bridges and other projects, and he is known for bringing millions of dollars back to his Tampa Bay district, especially in military contracts — making him a target for critics of earmarks."
"Congressman Young had what I would call a productive tenure, as far as [Florida's] 13th District was concerned," former State Chairman Tom Slade told Newsmax. "I would say it would be very difficult — if not impossible — for any successor to match what he has done for his constituents."
"Bringing home the bacon" has become much more difficult to do for any member of Congress. Along with budget cuts for domestic spending, the ability of lawmakers to secure "earmarks" — special projects for their districts — has been scuttled by Congress.
These days, the contrary philosophy of "give us less" prevails among the "young tigers" among House Republicans. With 108 of the 233 House Republicans first elected in 2010 and 2012 — many with tea party support — that's a lot of "young tigers."
In the weeks leading up to his retirement, Young made clear his differences with younger lawmakers in his party by telling reporters that if a "clean resolution" —funding the entire government for two weeks, including Obamacare — came to the House floor, he would vote for it.
Discussing Speaker John Boehner with the Tampa Bay Times last week, Young said the "outspoken minority" of the House GOP conference is "pretty much in charge right now."
As to the impact of Young's departure on the newer Republicans, that is unclear.
"I don't think retirements strengthen or weaken the role of 'young tigers' more or less than retirements have in the past," Mark Salter, author and onetime staffer and campaign strategist for Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona told Newsmax. "In years past, of course, old lions retired and younger members gained in seniority on their way to becoming old lions. It's hard to say what will happen to this bunch."
"If by 'young tigers,' you mean the 30 to 40 new members closely identified with the tea party who are driving the current budget and debt impasse, they already exercise influence greatly in excess of their numbers. I doubt a few retirements will make them any more influential," Salter said.
No sooner had word gone out that Young was stepping down after 43 years in Congress than what appeared to be an entire generation of Republicans began making noise about running for a seat that has only been open once since 1952 — in 1970, when then-Rep. Bill Cramer ran unsuccessfully for the Senate and Young, then a state senator, succeeded him in the House.
The Tampa Bay Times named nine possible replacements. Some, notably state Sen. Jack Latvala and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, have grown restless after years of being mentioned for a House seat that seemed to be forever in Young's grasp.
One of the GOP prospects is Bill Young II, the congressman's son, who had previously been eyeing a race for the state legislature.
But the 13th District has clearly been changing in recent years and the Republican primary next August 28 is no longer tantamount to election. The district backed Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Last year, Young won his closest re-election in memory, defeating lawyer Jessica Ehrlich by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. Ehrlich signaled Wednesday she will run again. But the rare prospect of an open congressional seat may well attract other Democrats to run and is certain to be a target of national Democrats who sense an opportunity for a "pick-up" in 2014.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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