ST. PETERSBURG — Two Republicans are fighting for the right to challenge Democratic State Rep. Dwight Dudley for the District 68 State House seat in a David-and-Goliath contest seasoned with quirky Florida political flair.
One of the candidates is the son and namesake of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Though nicknamed Billy, the younger Young, 30, will be on the ballot as Bill Young.
His opponent, Joshua Black, 31, was somewhat obscure before he sent an inflammatory tweet calling for the execution, via hanging, of President Barack Obama on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
District 68 is a wedge that points south from Feather Sound to Bayboro Harbor. At its widest, it runs from Cross Bayou to Gateway. At its narrowest, where a downtown swath has been clipped out, it encompasses Crescent Lake and Old Northeast.
Young filed to run for the seat a month after Black filed, six weeks after Black's controversial tweet. Young said he jumped into the race after months of consideration and discussion with his wife, Ashley.
“There was a lot of thought that went into my decision to run,” Young said in an email. “Everybody has a role model of some sort in their life. I was very lucky to have a role model that dedicated his life to serving his community and loved every minute of it. That person of course, is my father.”
His father was the longest-serving Republican in Congress and served in the state legislature before that. He was known for his willingness to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats more than many other members of Congress.
Bill Young II said he hopes to emulate that approach. As with many candidates, he said the economy would be a top priority.
“In my opinion the one thing that has the ability to turn someone's life around, that we all strive for, is a good job,” he said. “When people have great jobs they have great lives they are proud of and we end up with great communities.”
He prefers lifting regulations and lowering taxes as a means of improving the economy, though not so much that essential tax-funded services would be lost. For education, he supports school choice. He's also an advocate for Second Amendment rights, veterans' issues and protecting the environmental attributes of Pinellas County that are an economic boon via tourism.
Black also lists education among his top issues. He decries policies like Common Core and No Child Left Behind.
“Republicans for decades have said that the federal Department of Education is unconstitutional,” he said. “We need to push back and give our children the help that they need. If you ask teachers, parents are the key to success in children's education.”
Protecting Second Amendment rights and doing away with the gas tax also make his top three.
Black said one word describes his decision to run.
“Frustration,” he said. “Every time we get down to November you have these politicians bickering about positions that really aren't that far apart at all.”
The fundraising gap between the two is huge. Young has brought in at least $111,014. Black, meanwhile, has $8,728. Many donations to Black's campaign are from out of state, and many of those contributions came in the days following national news media coverage of his tweet about the president. The first three were from Montana, Hawaii and Maryland. The vast majority of Young's contributions come from within Florida, though a noticeable handful come from Washington, D.C., and area donors, including Harry Glenn, the elder Young's former chief of staff.
Black was born and raised in the St. Louis area and is the second of 10 children. Home-schooled for much of his education, the former street evangelist moved to St. Petersburg in 2007. He is a taxi driver and married with a baby on the way.
Young is one of two sons of Bill Young Sr. and his second wife, Beverly. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in political science and works in the business development area of a local company, National Forensic Science Technology Center, which works extensively as a federal contractor. He and his wife have two children.
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