Charlie Justice on Bill Young

Just weeks ago, Congressman Young learned that he was no longer the subject of an ethics inquiry into a lobbying firm and earmarks given out to defense contractors.

That was regarding the lobbying firm PMA, that has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

Justice says he's raring to go head to head against Young, saying it's been a long time since there's been a real campaign to challenge the 79 year-old legislator.  "As far as I know, I'm the one in this race who's said 'I'm definitely running.' No ifs, ands, or 'I'll make my announcement later.' I'm definitely running, and if he runs, we'll have a great, healthy campaign, and if he retires, we'll thank him for his service."

Speculation has centered around the fact that Congressional Republicans, who looked dead just a year ago, are suddenly inspired by recent electoral victories in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey.  That's a point that Young made explicitly while addressing the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club a couple of weeks ago.  But Charlie Justice isn't buying the popular notion in Washington that the Democrats are going to get smoked this November.  But then, you didn't expect him to, did you?

"Yes," he says, "they took a seat in Massachusetts –which, by the way, has elected Republicans state wide for Governor, year after year,  and you look at Democrats, who won a seat that Republicans for 200 years had held, but we don’t talk about that one.  (Actually, the special Congressional election in New York that Justice referred to was a seat that the Republicans had held for 140 years).   I think the District 10 Pinellas County voters will decide.  And they’ll decide on what they think is the right thing.  We want to go out and talk about Charlie Justice, talk about the issues that we care about, I feel very comfortable letting the voters make up their mind."

Justice has been blasted by national congressional news organizations as being a fundraising dud, perhaps another reason why Bill Young feels confident he can withstand a challenge from a youthful upstart.  But when asked about reports that he's underperforming in such a necessary element of campaigning, Justice joked that he's still doing better than when he faced Kim Berfield for his State Senate back in 2006.

“You always like to have a little bit more, but we’re working hard, and I was only spent by $5 million last time so we feel very comfortable being the underdog, we don’t need more, we just need enough, and we’re confident that our grass roots team is going to get our message out.”

Hillsborough/Pinellas Democratic State Senator Charlie Justice is potentially longtime Congressman Bill Young's most formidable challenger in ages.  That is, if Young announces he's running for office in Florida's 10th District, which, if successful, would mark 39 years in Congress.

Though Young has yet to declare his candidacy, close observers of the Congressman believe now that he will run at least one more time in Congress, this time against a Democrat who announced his candidacy  a full 19 months before the November 2010 election date.

Last week Justice seized on a St. Petersburg Times story that reported on Young's tendencies to funnel millions of dollars in projects to lobbying firms employing former staffers.   Speaking to CL over the weekend, Justice said he had concerns about the story, saying, " There’s a way that things used to be done in Washington and I think a lot of us feel we have to change the things that were doing in Washington. "  Justice referred indirectly to the Ray Sansom situation in Tallahassee as an example of the dangers of inserting items in a budget at the last minute, something he said that happens "a lot" in D.C.

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