Bilirakis cuts the rug en route to Congress
Celebration was delayed but gratifying when Republican Gus Bilirakis burst into a hall packed with supporters in Tarpon Springs about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. "Gus, Gus, Gus!" they chanted as he arrived, flushed, giddy and ready to dance. After a few circles round the dance floor, Bilirakis delivered his speech, pausing only when his 3-year old son grabbed the mike and belted out an impressively complete rendition of "God Bless America" all by himself. Gus' win seemed bittersweet for Rep. Mike Bilirakis, coming as the GOP seemed certain to lost control of the House.
Bilirakis beat out Democrat Phyllis Busansky by @ 12 points, most decisively in the former Hillsborough Count Comissioner's home turf, where Busansky won 37 % compared to Bilirakis' 59 %. In Pinellas, he won by about 11% and in Pasco, by less than 2%.
Earlier this afternoon, Busansky had been upbeat -- even about the prospect of a loss. The 69 year-old grandmother of 9 stood under an umbrella waving to cars as they sloshed by a precinct in Oldsmar. "I want to win, I want to help change Congress" she said, but added another goal was simpy "to stand up and speak."
"I really do believe if Gus Bilirakis wins, it will be a dark time," she said. He had run a "very nasty campaign," she said. Not only were his mailers and ads "un-Congressional," she said her family woke up at 6:30 am on Tuesday to find six Bilirakis signs on the front lawn.
p.s. Just an odd piece of historical triva -- Gus is not the first Bilirakis to buck a Democratic sweep. His father won his first election in 1982, the year the GOP lost 27 seats in the US House. The fierce campaign centered on debates about tax cuts, social security and Middle-east policy, which favored Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the war with Iran.