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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

District 9 sign war got ugly



Tuesday's lackluster election belied the intensity of the behind-the-scenes battle over campaign signs in the District 9 primary race. For weeks, staffs of the two candidates, Langheier & Bilrakis, had been noticing their signs were being defaced and pulled down under suspicious circumstances. Tensions mounted in both camps. Authorities were called, reports filed, accusations exchanged. There were even allegations -- all denied - that the sign meddlers included Gus Bilirkais and David Langheier's wife Vicki. But Liz Hittos, Bilirakis' dep. campaign manager, said a Palm Harbor man confessed to authorities that he had turned the 's' into a '$' on a 'Bilirkas' sign. No charges were filed, but the friction continued. It boiled over in New Port Richey late Sunday evening. "Their signs were attached to our signs ... as to block our signs," Hittos said. "So we ripped them off, but we were good enough not to trash them.” On election day, meanwhile, Vicki Langheier showed up at Bilirakis headquarters, escorted by Tarpon Springs police, to collect 8 to 10 Langheier signs.

In the end, there were no arrests, no charges, just mutual disdain.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:44pm]


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