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U.S. House | District 12

Redistricting pushed U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis' district into all of Pasco County, with slices of northern Hillsborough and Pinellas. As a sitting member of Congress, he has raised more than $500,000, dwarfing his opponents' campaign chests. Most analysts view the seat as safe for Republicans, but a young Democrat and two independents hope to upset that apple cart. Stephen Nohlgren, Times staff writer

Gus Bilirakis, 49


Jonathan Snow, 25

Retail photo technician

Paul Elliott, 69


John Russell, 56

Nurse practitioner

Party Republican Democrat No party affiliation No party affiliation
Experience Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor resident, is running for his fourth term in Congress, after his father, Michael, held the seat for 23 years. Bilirakis also served eight years in the Florida Legislature. He is an attorney and teaches at St. Petersburg College. In Congress, he is vice chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, sits on the Homeland Security Committee and chairs its subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications. Snow, a Palm Harbor resident, is a photo technician for Walgreens, has taught as a substitute in Pinellas County schools and worked on the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. He has been active in politics since high school and has held leadership positions in the Pinellas County Young Democrats and the Tarpon Springs Democratic Club. At Tarpon Springs High, he was managing editor of the school newspaper. Elliott, a Tampa resident, is an attorney, mediator and certified financial planner. He was a Hillsborough County public defender and an elected county judge from 1980 to 1988. He has served as president of the Conference of County Judges of Florida, the Carrollwood Community Bar Association and the Carrollwood Village Home Owners Association. He is a licensed pilot and served in the Coast Guard reserve during the Vietnam War. Russell, a Dade City resident, is an acute care nurse practitioner working with a doctors' group that specializes in oncology and blood diseases. Russell also has worked in health care management and as a financial adviser; he holds securities broker and insurance licenses. He ran three other times for Congress as a Democrat before redistricting placed his home in House District 12. When he built his home 17 years ago, he served as his own general contractor.
Education Bilirakis graduated from St Petersburg College, the University of Florida and Stetson University College of Law. Snow graduated from St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida with a bachelor of arts degree. Bachelor of science degree and a law degree from the University of Florida. Bachelor of science degree from D'Youville College and master's degrees from USF, Niagara University and SUNY Buffalo.
How would you deal with the debt?

Pass a balanced budget amendment. "Ignoring runaway deficits and out-of-control spending is not an option,'' he says. He voted against the economic stimulus package and bailouts for the financial sector and the auto industry. His website suggests tax-cutting as a stimulus: "Congress should pass economic solutions that let families and small businesses keep more of what they earn so they can innovate, grow, and create jobs.'' Cut waste and fraud, with the Pentagon's "bloated budget'' as "a perfect place to begin, especially in procurement procedures, unnecessary foreign bases, and ineffective and outdated equipment." Eliminate tax loopholes and havens. Tax all sources of income the same as wages. Additional income tax brackets for those who earn more than $1 million per year. Target spending on infrastructure to create jobs and bring in revenue. Balance budget and cap borrowing at current limits. Work toward budget surplus to pay off debt. Simplify the tax code and broaden the base by eliminating exclusions, deductions and exemptions while also reducing tax rates. Prioritize spending and eliminate duplication. The current Congress, he says, "is just kicking the ball down the road, and it's going to get worse as every day goes by." Increase marginal tax rate to 39 percent on earned and unearned income over $250,000. Higher marginal rates above $1 million, topping at 55 percent for $10 million and above. Defund the Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan theater of operations. Enact "pay as you go" budget rules. Tax inheritances at 55 percent after exempting the first $8 million. Tax capital gains and earned income equally.
How would you strengthen
Says one of the most important ways to keep Medicare solvent is to "enhance transparency and accountability, eliminating tens of billions of dollars in fraud." Voted for the Paul Ryan budget that would change Medicare for people under 55 from a defined benefit program to a premium support voucher, which they could apply toward a private plan or the traditional government-run plan. Expand Medicare coverage to reduce chronic and costly diseases. Allow any American to buy into Medicare, "thus strengthening the overall program." Allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers "for better drug prices similar to the Veterans Administration." Allow safe importation of lifesaving medications. Expand medical and scientific research. "Financing health care is our biggest challenge.'' Medicare's biggest problem is that fewer people are paying for more benefits. Medicare must be reformed. Possibilities include adjusting eligibility and benefits, competitive bidding for programs, cost adjustments and means testing. Open enrollment for all citizens in Medicare by adding it as a choice on the Health Care Exchanges. Allowing healthy people to enroll will "strengthen the fiscal status of Medicare while ensuring everyone the opportunity to access comprehensive, affordable health care." Reduce prescription drug costs by allowing imports from Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand.
How would you strengthen Social Security? The key to making sure benefits are available is to improve the government's overall fiscal position so that it can meet Social Security's obligations. "Trillion-dollar deficits are unsustainable, and the accumulation of federal debt is a threat to Social Security that must be stopped.'' Restore the funds "inappropriately taken out of Social Security by Congress" and prohibit future use of the Social Security Trust Fund for anything unrelated to Social Security. Subject all earnings to the Social Security payroll tax without caps for high-income earners. Social Security was designed to keep seniors out of poverty and destitution. Means test to adjust benefits to income. Raise the retirement age. Allow only citizens to participate. "Set the amount of income to a floating amount upon which contributions are computed to match benefits.'' Make the first $12,000 of income exempt from Social Security taxes while raising the cap on taxable income to $50 million over eight years. Make capital gains, interest and dividends subject to Social Security tax. Put up to 10 percent of Trust Fund in conservative market investments.
How would you deal with immigration? Opposes amnesty or any system that rewards people living or working in the country illegally. "We must secure America's borders and enforce existing laws to ensure that those entering our country do so through the proper channels.'' Pass the Dream Act. "Ensure fairness and equality for everyone in drafting new immigration guidelines." Streamline the immigration process to reduce the backlog. Ensure "enforcement of our laws through appropriate funding and hold all violators responsible.'' Secure borders by paying for enough staff to enforce current immigration laws. Include enough funding to expeditiously process immigration applications. Monitor whereabouts and conditions of everyone granted temporary visas. Harsh financial penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Set up explicit criteria that would allow "certain long-standing undocumented workers" to stay in the country. Crack down on human trafficking.
Assets Home, real estate, investments Savings account Home, real estate, savings, retirement accounts Two homes
Liabilities Home mortgage Credit card debt None Mortgages, credit card debt
Income Congressional salary, teaching salary Walgreens wages Income from law practice, Florida pension and Social Security Salary as nurse practitioner
Personal Born in Florida, Bilirakis is married with four sons. Born in Indiana, Snow is single and has no children. Born in Florida, Elliott is a widower with an adult son. Born in New York, Russell is married and has no children.
Website bilirakis
Email info
snowforcongress john@johnrussell

About the job: Members of the U.S. House of Representatives serve two-year terms, voting on federal budgets, immigration, education and energy policy and whether the country
formally goes to war. They are paid $174,000 a year.

Florida's U.S. House District 12: Jonathan Snow (D), Gus Bilirakis (R), Paul Elliott (no party), John Russell (no party)

Redistricting pushed U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis' district into all of Pasco County, with slices of northern Hillsborough and Pinellas. As a sitting member of Congress, he has raised more than $500,000, dwarfing his opponents' campaign chests. Most analysts view the seat as safe for Republicans, but a young Democrat and two independents hope to upset that apple cart.

Florida's U.S. House District 12: Jonathan Snow (D), Gus Bilirakis (R), Paul Elliott (no party), John Russell (no party) 10/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 11:08am]
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