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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

GOP Chairman David Bitner diagnosed with ALS



bitner1.jpgRepublican party chairman David Bitner has been diagnosed with ALS, often called Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive and ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disease. With his wife Wendy at his side, the chairman this morning sounded as upbeat and energetic as ever.

"My wife and I are strong believers in God and our faith drives us," he said. "God has blessed me in being able to do what I'm doing."

Bitner said he will continue to serve as chairman for as long as possible, and that his doctor told him some ALS patients have been known to go 15 years without much change in their condition. Bitner has been using a motorized scooter for a couple months, but shows no sign respiratory problems.

Bitner was in Madison County last night for a Lincoln Day dinner, will be in Jacksonville Saturday for a Greatest Generation Event, and has and has an upcoming quarterly meeting in Orlando and RNC meeting in Dallas, and Okaloosa County Lincoln Day. "I'm not slowing down at all."

Bitner is participating in an experimental drug program, but noted that it's not a cure but an effort to learn more about ALS. His prognosis is uncertain, but his spirits are high.

"I know the greatest physician of all," he said. "That great physician could cure me tomorrow."

Senate President Mike Haridopolos: "Chairman Bitner is a good man and I know he’s prepared for the days ahead of him.During his short tenure as head of the Republican Party of Florida, Chairman Bitner has done an outstanding job of leading the party. I continue to support him as Chairman and know he’ll lead the Republican Party through a very successful 2012 election cycle."

House Speaker Dean Cannon: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Chairman Bitner and Wendy. We are grateful for the Chairman’s commitment to continuing his service to the Republican Party of Florida and pray that God will bring him comfort and strength.  I am confident in Chairman Bitner's ability to lead our Party, and I know he will continue to serve us well."

Florida Democratic Chairman Rod Smith: “Today, I ask all Floridians to keep Republican Party Chairman Dave Bitner and his family in their thoughts and prayers. His determination to continue as Republican Party Chairman as he seeks treatment is courageous, setting an example for all Floridians with this tragic disease. I encourage all Floridians to visit to learn more about Lou Gehrig's Disease, and hope Floridians will donate what they can to help researchers find a cure for ALS.

Bitner sent the following email to REC members this afternoon:

Dear Friends,

As many of you already know, in recent months I have been dealing with some health issues. After additional evaluations and tests, physicians have confirmed that I have ALS- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis- often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Wendy and I have been working through this diagnosis with our family over the past few days. We intended to contact all of you individually with this news, but not everything goes as planned and the news was released in the press prematurely. However, we will be planning a conference call with all of you in the very near future.

Though the diagnosis was difficult to hear, it has not dampened my passion for serving as your Chairman or my motivation to make the Republican Party of Florida as strong as possible heading into the 2012 election.
As those of you who have seen Wendy and me in almost every county across this state know, I am too young and healthy to retire or to slow down. I am going to use every skill in my power to be the dynamic and effective chairman that the Republican Party deserves. Therefore, I plan to fully execute my duties and responsibilities as your Chairman for my entire term.
We are heading into a very exciting year and I intend to fully participate. From Presidency 5 to the Republican National Convention, from the Presidential race to the race for the U.S. Senate, Florida Republicans will continue to shape the future of our state and country. I am proud to lead these efforts and to serve as your Chairman.
Over the last several days I have had the opportunity to speak to many of our Republican leaders. I am grateful for their confidence in my ability to perform my duties as Chairman and their words of encouragement. With their support, and the support of all of you, we will work together, continue our momentum, and put every Florida election in the Republican column at every level of government, from county commission to the White House.
My will and faith in God remain strong, and I look forward to working beside all of you in the days and weeks to come.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Chairman.

David Bitner

[Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 4:04pm]


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