GOP Rep. Bill Young's retirement opens door for Democrats in Florida district

Flagging health and poor fundraising hauls had prompted speculation that the 22-term congressman would retire, though he had previously defied those expectations. His tenure in Congress has included stints as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and he'll leave the House the current chairman of the Defense subcommittee.

His decision is a potential boon for Democrats, who believe they have a stronger chance of taking back the seat, a swing district that President Obama won the past two cycles. 

“The departure of the most senior House Republican should serve as a wake-up call to Speaker Boehner and House Republicans: if they continue to cave to the Tea Party’s radical demands and threaten the country’s financial stability, they will see even their own Members jump off their sinking ship," said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“In 2014, the voters in Florida’s 13th district will have the chance to elect a problem-solving Democrat in this competitive district that twice elected President Obama.”

In a statement, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Young "a tireless voice for our men and women in uniform and America’s national security, and a dear friend."

Though Florida's 13th Congressional District leans Democratic, Young hadn't had much difficulty defending the seat. He handily defeating attorney Jessica Ehrlich, his Democratic challenger, in 2012. She recently launched a rematch against Young, but his retirement is likely to entice others into the primary.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and Pinellas County Commissioners Karen Seel and John Morroni have all been mentioned as possible Republican contenders.

Young revealed his decision to the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday and said a conversation with former Sen. John Stennis (D-Miss.) reminded him he knew when to retire.

"You'll know when it's time," Young said Stennis told him. "Sen. Stennis gave me some very good advice. I'm taking that advice now," Young said in a phone interview with the Times.

Young, 82, has been at Walter Reed Medical Center since Friday because of a back injury.

The Florida congressman told the newspaper there were multiple factors for his decision not to run for reelection again. His health and spending more time with his family, he says, are the main reasons.

"I don't know that I would pick out one thing. It's a lot of things. My family, my job, my rehabilitation from my back,” Young said.

He also criticized the partisan gridlock that has taken hold of Congress, admitting, "I'm a little disappointed. It seems there's too much politics. It's a different Congress."

He pledged to "do the best I can for the next year and three months."

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