In Florida, political family feud sets the stage for contentious 2014

In Florida, political family feud sets the stage for contentious 2014
Election canvassers in Miami check questionable ballots in 2000, during the presidential recount. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Florida is in a league of its own when it comes to the weird and offbeat. A sample from last week: A man allegedly killed his wife and son with a crossbow and then drove across the state to try to kill another son before slitting his own throat.

And now the state is making a run at the mantle of strange political goings-on that it most famously exhibited during the post-2000 presidential election chad-counting imbroglio. This one involves a feud between the widow of longtime Republican Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young and their son over who should replace him.


As the Tampa Bay Times recounted it, after a candidate forum last week, Beverly Young confronted the younger Bill Young in full view of a reporter.

"You have hurt me beyond belief," she told him. Later, asked by the reporter what impact the race had had on relations with her son, she added tearfully that "I have no relationship."

Beverly Young has endorsed her husband's longtime aide in the January primary and March general election, and contends that she is carrying out her husband's wishes. Their son has endorsed a competing Republican state legislator. Young family endorsements carry weight in the St. Petersburg-area district where the elder Young served more than 40 years and won praise across the political spectrum.

The race opens a year in which Florida will take center stage politically, with a whole lot of family feuding.

The first-term governor, Republican Rick Scott, faces a challenge next year from Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who -- follow closely now -- failed in his attempt at the party's Senate nomination in 2010, then ran in that race's general election as an independent and, having lost, pirouetted to the Democratic Party, where he currently resides.

Members of President Obama's campaign organization have lined up for Crist, though his just-announced campaign manager, Bill Hyers, left the team last week. Hyers most recently managed the successful New York City mayoral campaign of Bill de Blasio, making him a catch for the Crist forces.

As that race heightens, no less than two prominent Floridians, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, are in the Republican mix for president in 2016. Though few expect the two would run against one another, the very prospect is angina-inducing for some in Florida, a state that will be among the top targets for any presidential candidate from either party.

In an exquisitely headlined piece earlier this year in Buzzfeed -- "The Future of the Republican Party is by the Pool at the Biltmore," referring to the Coral Gables hotel where both Bush and Rubio hang out --  GOP strategist Ana Navarro described the potential competition as "the nightmare scenario for everyone here."

"I'd get into the fetal position and lock myself in a room for nine months," she said of the possibility that both would run. "That just cannot happen. ... If we have to all lock ourselves in the Biltmore until white smoke comes out and we pick one, that's what we will do."

All of which may suggest that the Young family feud is merely par for the course in a state where real life has come to resemble a Carl Hiassen novel.

(Hiassen's books feature outlandish characters, one of them a former governor who hides out like a hermit, eating roadkill and wearing a shower cap, the unfortunate residue of an unsuccessful battle against bribe-offering, moneyed developers. He's fictional, but just barely it seems. "Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life," Hiassen once said of his state.)

The younger Bill Young offered a pragmatic view of political endorsements last week that is clearly not shared by his mother.

"She shouldn't be letting things divide the family. It's politics," he said of their current straits. And, he told the Tampa Bay Times, "It's unfortunate that she is making this a family issue, and I wish that she wouldn't."


Twitter: @cathleendecker