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Gus Bilirakis easily wins third term in Florida's 9th Congressional District

Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor chats with supporters outside St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, where he voted Tuesday. He took two thirds of the vote in the District 9 race.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor chats with supporters outside St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, where he voted Tuesday. He took two thirds of the vote in the District 9 race.

In a race with no surprises, incumbent Rep. Gus Bilirakis swiftly and decisively defeated his challenger, Anita de Palma.

De Palma said she was "neither disappointed nor surprised" because of the current political climate and her opponent's experience and name recognition.

"I'm just looking at what's ahead," said de Palma, 73. "Who knows. I may make up my mind tomorrow to go again. It's only two years."

During the campaign for Florida's 9th Congressional District, de Palma talked tough, accusing her opponent, a Palm Harbor Republican, of clinging to his father's coattails and doing little for his district. His dad, Mike Bilirakis, held the same seat for 24 years before retiring in 2006.

Throughout the campaign, Bilirakis maintained that he was qualified on his own merits and was responsive to the needs of his constituents.

Bilirakis, 47, garnered more than two thirds of the vote Tuesday to earn his third term in Congress.

Bilirakis did not return calls for comment by press time Tuesday night.

The candidates never faced off for a debate but clearly disagreed on most issues, including immigration and the extension of Bush's tax cuts.

Bilirakis opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and supported extending all of the tax cuts.

De Palma, a Democrat who served four years as state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, was most passionate about overhauling federal immigration law. She proposed a plan to let undocumented immigrants earn points toward permanent citizenship. And she opposed keeping any of Bush's tax cuts without further research.

Over the past four years, Bilirakis has made advocacy for service people and seniors a priority, pushing for better benefits for veterans and introducing legislation to establish a national grant program to help states form Silver Alert notification systems.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Gus Bilirakis easily wins third term in Florida's 9th Congressional District 11/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 12:04am]
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