How old is too old when you’re a political candidate?

This summer, campaign ads in the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat have depicted Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson as “terribly confused,” as well as a politician in Washington for a “half-century.”

To set the record straight: Nelson hasn’t been in Washington D.C. for a half century – he served in various elected positions in Florida throughout the years, so he wasn’t in Washington during those times.

The “Bill Nelson is terribly confused” language stems from an ad relating to Nelson’s recent remarks about potential election hacking in Florida.

In any case, the ads by Gov. Rick Scott – Nelson’s Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race – intentionally give voters the impression that Nelson is old and should get out of office.

What do voters, particularly all the seniors in Florida, think about that?

Right now, Nelson is 75 and Scott is 65.

Is Nelson old? Is Scott old? Are both old?

Does age matter when voters go to the polls to consider candidates?

Employees even in their 50s are getting pushed out of the workplace – allowing employers to spend less money on young new hires. Those older, pushed-out workers can have a tough time getting jobs and retaining health benefits, particularly at the salaries and benefits they were earning previously.

But in the halls of Congress, it’s okay to be old, and members can remain in their jobs in their 80s, 70s and 60s – unless they get kicked out by voters.

“The average age of Members of the 115th Congress (2017-18) is among the highest of any Congress in recent U.S. history, according to a profile posted last month by the Congressional Research Office.

“The average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 115th Congress was 57.8 years; of Senators, 61.8 years, among the oldest in U.S. history,” the profile data states.

And, the profile noted, that “The oldest Senator in the 115th Congress is Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), born June 22, 1933.” (Feinstein is now 85.)

Some young people aren’t happy about the ages of some members of Congress.

David Hogg, who lived through the shootings that killed 17 students and staff in February at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has become a gun-control activist and is considering a run for the U.S. House Representatives when he turns 25.

He has been critical of the elderly politicians, recently posting on Twitter: “I said ‘Pelosi is old'”

“Trump is old. Hatch is old…. We can go younger. Dems need to allow young people to seize leadership opportunities like the republicans have with people like (U.S. Senator from Florida Marco) Rubio, (U.S. House Speaker Paul) Ryan etc.”

Rubio is 47 and Ryan is 48.

Hogg was referencing the older politicians: House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi, 78; President Donald Trump, 72, and U.S. Senator from Utah Orrin Hatch, 84.

What is clear is that whether Nelson or Scott becomes Florida’s U.S. Senator, they will already be older than the average U.S. Senator.

Is that good or bad?



Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.


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