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Election 2010 | District 9

Two political neophytes seek to unseat Rep. Gus Bilirakis

Both Anita de Palma and her opponent in the Democratic primary, Phil Hindahl, agree wholeheartedly on one thing.

They're unimpressed with the incumbent.

De Palma, 73, a Hispanic activist, says Rep. Gus Bilirakis is not "accessible and accountable."

Hindahl, Sixth Judicial Circuit assistant public defender, says he's not sure Bilirakis has "done a lot for the people of the 9th district."

Congress caters to special interests and vocal minorities, said Hindahl, 47, and he doesn't see anybody "trying to put forth the interests of the people in the middle class."

De Palma lost the primary for this office two years ago. Hindahl, who has never run for office in Florida, lost a bid for Pike County Circuit Court judge in Indiana in 2000.

Both have plans to improve the economy and retool the nation's energy policy. They oppose offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and an Arizona-like immigration law. They share common ground, but their approaches to various issues differ.

For example, de Palma, who is most passionate about overhauling federal immigration law, supports a point system that would let undocumented immigrants work to accumulate points toward permanent status.

Hindahl is in favor of better securing the border with Mexico and improving enforcement of immigration violations. He also supports some form of amnesty.

De Palma says the nation must rapidly discard an oil-based energy system and encourage production of electric cars.

Hindahl supports cap and trade, which sets a cap on emissions, saying it would force carbon emitters to seek cheaper, alternative sources of energy.

Hindahl, of Lutz, was born and raised in Indiana, where he had his own law practice.

De Palma, of Clearwater, served four years as the state director of League of United Latin American Citizens, where, among other things, she focused on helping migrant workers.

Born Rosario Mendez, she worked decades as a nightclub performer. Anita de Palma was her stage name.

Over the past three years, de Palma has been sued three times, as either Mendez or de Palma, for unpaid credit card bills. Judges have ordered her to pay more than $22,000. She claims her cards were stolen, and she was buying time to investigate.

In each case, she wrote the court, saying she couldn't pay or come to court because she was looking for work or was not "mentally or physically able."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Two political neophytes seek to unseat Rep. Gus Bilirakis 07/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 9:53pm]
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