Two of the legends of Florida politics have passed on in the last few weeks. Yesterday’s passing of Congressman Bill Young (R-Indian Rock Beach) came just weeks after his longtime colleague former Congressman E. Clay Shaw (R- Fort Lauderdale) passed on. Both were throwbacks to another era, when Republicans were fiscally responsible yet socially compassionate party, a time when differences were worked out not via cable new channels and shout shows but in the backrooms, drinking establishments, restaurants, dining halls and airport corridors of Washington D.C./Northern Virginia.
Both Young and Shaw were Floridians first and partisans second. While both compiled a largely conservative voting record, taking care of the district and ultimately the state was the goal of these two selfless politicians. While it irked Democrats that both sat in accessible seats, many Democrats in both southeast Florida and the Tampa Bay area would tell you privately how effective both were as leaders in the congress.
Both voted yes on the 1993 Brady Law to prevent handgun violence (against the vast majority of Republicans) and Shaw voted in 1994 for President Clinton’s Crime Bill which included a ban on Assault Weapons.
I was pleased in 2006 the Democrats took control of Congress but must confess I was unhappy south Florida lost Clay Shaw as a powerful advocate in Congress. In a one party area it was strategically important to have a prominent and thoughtful Republican advocating for our region.
While Democrats in the Tampa Bay area will surely relish the pick-up opportunity Young’s seat provides, the influence lost in Congress is irreplaceable. Young in particular was a strong and powerful advocate for military families and our fighting women and men, even when other politicians in both parties simply used them as partisan political fodder.
Today is a sad day in Florida and the nation. The losses of Young and Shaw continue the transition from a generation of leaders who moved our state forward and put local interest first to a generation of leaders in both parties who often put their own political advancement first.
I weep for not only Young’s family today but also for Florida. Hopefully mature leadership will emerge among Florida Republicans who control this state and the US House because we’ve lost the best and most influential Republican this state had left.