But the story was no shock to those in Pinellas political circles. That's what County Commissioner Janet Long said Wednesday.
"Everybody knew it! It wasn’t a secret! It was never a secret. I didn’t know anybody who was politically active or active in the community who didn’t know about it," Long told CL on Wednesday afternoon at the St. Stefanos Greek Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg, where Alex Sink was officially endorsed by the United Auto Workers in the race to succeed Young in March's special election.
"I think it’s interesting that it took all those years for it to surface," Long said. "If it had been anyone else it would have been news, because back in the time when all of that happened [the mid-1980s], it wasn’t such an insignificant thing" for a public figure to be involved in an extra-marital affair, especially one that produced a child. (And it's still big news: Consider last decade's scandal surrounding presidential hopeful John Edwards' affair and child with Rielle Hunter.)
According to Meacham's story, Young, then 51, divorced his wife of 36 years, Marian Ford Young, a year after having a child with his former secretary (and later wife) Beverly Angello. He had little contact in the decades that followed with the three children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren from his marriage to Marian. He died last October at the age of 82 from what was reported to be complications from a chronic back injury.
Confirming Long's comment that everyone in Pinellas County politics was familiar with Young's earlier life is St. Petersburg political blogger Peter Schorsch, who says he was surprised to see the Tampa Bay Times describe its coverage as "revelatory when what they reported was known by almost everyone actively involved in the local political process — from elected officials to precinct chairs." That includes Schorsch himself, who has admitted that he knew and never wrote about it.
Meacham's story states that other journalists knew about the affair and the birth, "but believed such issues fell outside the public's right to know." And he included a quote from former Times reporter and editorial writer Martin Dyckman saying, "Those of us at the (paper) weren't comfortable exploiting a politician's private life so long as it didn't cross with his work."
Commissioner Long says that one reason she's so excited about Sink's candidacy (besides the obvious fact that she and Sink are both Democrats) is that the former CFO cares about many issues that Young didn't pay attention to.
"He did a lot great things for Pinellas County and you can’t take that away from him, but it was time for him to go many years ago and I think that he became less and less effective," she says of the congressman. She wonders specifically about the absence of leadership from Young when Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012 that has led to draconian flood insurance rate increases for tens of thousands of residents in the district.
According to former USFSP political science professor Darryl Paulson, Young was prepared to retire in 2010 but was talked back into it by Republicans in Washington who saw the chance to win back the House of Representatives.