Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

More battleground than common ground in House District 9 race

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and his Democrat opponent, William "Bill'' Mitchell, both are lawyers passionate about veterans' affairs.

But that's pretty much where their similarities end.

The two disagree on nearly every major issue facing voters in Florida's 9th Congressional District, from the economy to energy to national security.

Bilirakis, 45, is wrapping up his first term. A former state representative, he won the same congressional seat two years ago that was held by his father, Mike Bilirakis, for 24 years before he retired in 2006. Gus Bilirakis said his first-term record proves he deserves to go back to Washington.

His ability to garner bipartisan support, he said, helped him pass legislation that gave pay raises to active military and increased benefits to veterans. He also sponsored a Silver Alert Bill, which passed the House and awaits Senate consideration. It would help marshal efforts to locate missing senior citizens.

Mitchell, 61, said his military experience, economic background and history of investigating oil company collusion make him uniquely qualified to serve at a time when Americans are most concerned about the war in Iraq, the national economic crisis and high fuel costs.

Navy veteran Mitchell led an investigation into offshore drilling practices as an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in the 1970s. He is the founder and president of Mitchell Law Group in Tampa.

Though the two have appeared together only once during the campaign, they have traded barbs in direct mailings and commercials. Bilirakis accused Mitchell of opposing sales tax exemptions on food, medicine and school supplies, which Mitchell denies. And Mitchell charged Bilirakis failed to take a leadership role as the economic crisis unfolded, questioning Bilirakis' opposition to the economic bailout plan passed last month.

Mitchell said the bailout was needed to restore liquidity and free up constrained credit markets. Bilirakis explained he opposed the measure because it lacked oversight and unfairly burdened taxpayers.

Mitchell also criticized Bilirakis for voting against a measure to extend the renewable energy credit.

"Gus Bilirakis is a friend of big oil,'' Mitchell said. "He's taken thousands of dollars of contributions from the energy sector in this election cycle and he's voted to give big oil massive tax breaks. And what's more, he's voted against research into alternative energy."

But Bilirakis said he is for alternative energy, pointing to his exploratory trip this summer to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

As for offshore drilling, Bilirakis supports it if a 100-mile buffer is established. Mitchell consistently has opposed drilling offshore, saying it won't lower gas prices and also endangers Florida's coastline.

The two also are at odds over the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq. Bilirakis supports the administration's decisions. Mitchell, citing human and economic costs, supports establishing a timetable for pulling troops so they can be redeployed as needed.

With name recognition on his side, Bilirakis has raised more than $1.3-million . Mitchell has raised $141,000. But he has campaigned at breakneck speed, a strategy that helped him win the Democratic primary in August, beating former Plant City Mayor John Dicks despite Dicks' support from the national party.

Two other candidates are in the race. John "Johnny K" Kalimnios, 42, has no party affiliation. He was sheriff's detention deputy, then a Tarpon Springs police officer before retiring. He now is a shop owner. Richard O. Emmons, 57, is a member of the Term Limits for Congress Party and the owner of a magazine subscription agency in New Port Richey.

Both contend they are more in touch with voters fed up with politicians who cater to special interest groups.

Kalimnios, who spent nearly a year researching an energy plan to end American dependence on foreign oil, supports tax credits for companies that don't outsource jobs. He also opposes universal health care.

Emmons supports term limits for Congress, which he says would help curb greed among power-hungry representatives. He also wants voters to have a voice in creating policy through national referendums.

District 9 spreads across North Pinellas, west Pasco and suburban northern and eastern Hillsborough.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

U.S. House | District 9

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, 45 William D. "Bill" Mitchell, D-Tampa, 61
Experience Bilirakis is finishing his first term in Congress. Prior to that, he served as a state representative for District 48 from 1998 to 2006. Bilirakis was a probate and estate planning lawyer from 1990 to 2005. He serves on the House committees on Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security and Veterans' Affairs. Mitchell is the founder and president of Mitchell Law Group. As an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in the 1970s, he led an investigation into the offshore leasing practices of "big oil." As a lawyer, he has specialized in employment and health plan benefit cases. He is a former Naval submarine force officer and Vietnam War-era veteran.
Education Bachelor's degree in political science from University of Florida; law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Bachelor's degree in economics, University of Washington; master's degree in tax law, Georgetown University; master's degree in economics and law degree, University of California, Berkeley.
On the issues He opposed two versions of the federal economic bailout bill, saying they unfairly burdened taxpayers and lacked proper oversight. He supports offshore drilling in Florida, with a 100-mile buffer. He is a strong proponent of community health centers as a measure to provide affordable health care and supports a national sales tax to replace income and other taxes. He opposes privatization of Social Security. He supports a national catastrophic insurance fund, a family care tax credit for people caring for elderly or disabled relatives and a system to provide legal help to soldiers. He is a proponent of a timely withdrawal of troops in Iraq. He wants to see health insurance loopholes closed and supports importing prescription drugs from Canada. He opposes offshore drilling and proposals to privatize Social Security. Supports Roe vs. Wade.
Why he believes he is the best candidate for the job Bilirakis said he believes his work ethic, determination and ability to garner support from members of both major parties have helped him accomplish things in Washington, like the recent House passage of the Silver Alert bill he sponsored and two consecutive bills he contributed to that raise the pay of active military. Mitchell said he's got the experience to "crack down on oil company collusion" to lower gas prices, promote policies to turn the economy around, redeploy American troops out of Iraq and take on health insurance companies that refuse to pay claims and companies that refuse to pay pension benefits.
Assets Stocks, IRAs, real estate, prepaid tuition accounts. 401(k), IRA's and other investment accounts.
Liabilities Mortgage on home in Palm Harbor and law practice building in Holiday. Student loan.
Net worth Between $134,000 and $635,000, plus a Palm Harbor home with a market value of $431,000, according to his financial disclosure and property records. Between $785,500 and $2,158,500, plus a Tampa home with a market value of $226,800, according to his financial disclosure and property records.
Income House of Representatives salary, rent from law office. Salary from Mitchell Law Group.
Personal Wife, Eva; four sons. Wife, Mary; three sons.
Web site www.gus08.com billmitchellforcongress.com
E-mail nick@gusbilirakis.com votebillmitchell@tampabay.rr.com

About the job: U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $169,300 annually. U.S. House District 9 is spread across North Pinellas, west Pasco and suburban northern and eastern Hillsborough.

More battleground than common ground in House District 9 race 11/01/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 7:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.