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THE RACE FOR U.S. HOUSE DISTRICT 7

Democrat Sam Gibbons has represented U.S. House District 7 since the district was created in 1962. Now trying for his 15th term, Gibbons says he will stay on as long as his health allows and he "can continue to be of service." His challenger, Republican businessman Charles D. Prout, admits it will take "a miracle in 1990" to unseat Gibbons. He acknowledges that he is seeking some name recognition for a run at a new House seat to be created in 1992.

Gibbons says his chief goals are to reduce the federal deficit and to continue to promote world peace through free trade.

He opposes agricultural subsidies, is against any reduction in capital gains taxes, favors expansion of Medicare benefits to cover women of childbearing age and their offspring and has voted against spending for Star Wars weapons systems.

Gibbons also supports a comprehensive national health program and thinks women have the right to choose whether to have an abortion.

Prout says his checkered business history _ he has made a fortune twice, declared bankruptcy twice and survived a string of monetary judgments _ has left him with both the astuteness and the sensitivity to carry common concerns into congressional halls he regards as "imperial."

Prout wants to replace the income tax system with a federal sales tax, establish Social Security as an untouchable trust fund and begin billing Japan and Germany for the defense the United States provides them.

He calls for greater regulation of savings institutions, a requirement for a balance of payments in trade and a rollback of farm subsidies. He supports national health care and abortion rights, as long as abortions are not subsidized with tax dollars.

As the Democrat with the longest tenure on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, Gibbons receives almost automatic contributions from political action committees (PACs). From Jan. 1, 1989, through September this year, 244 PACs have sent his campaign more than $280,000.

During that period, Gibbons' campaign spent $58,099. At the end of September, his campaign treasury had built up to $670,338. Federal law allows the representative to retire with that money, but Gibbons vows he won't.

By contrast, Prout said in mid-October that he had spent about $3,000 in campaign money and had nearly depleted his account.

Prout says PAC donations turn campaign accounts into "slush funds" and are attempts by special interests to sway congressional votes. He favors outlawing PAC contributions from outside a congressional district and limiting total PAC contributions inside the district to $1 a constituent _ in District 7, about $265,000.

Gibbons says most of the PACs that contribute to his campaign have business interests in his district. He calls PACs a demonstration of the First Amendment and asserts that PAC money allows him to spend his time on Capitol Hill working instead of campaigning. Gibbons says his vote "cannot be bought for love or money."

_ JEFF TESTERMAN

THE JOB

U.S. House District 7 includes Tampa, parts of southwest Hillsborough County and most of east Hillsborough. House members serve two-year terms and will be paid $120,000 a year starting in 1991.

DEMOCRAT

SAM M. GIBBONS, 70, is a Tampa lawyer who has served in the House for 28 years. Born in Tampa, Gibbons is a graduate of Plant High School and the University of Florida and its law school. He was a combat infantry parachutist in the Army during World War II. He was a state representative from 1952 to 1958 and a state senator from 1958 to 1962. He is chairman of the subcommittee on trade and is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: belongings, home, condominiums, two cars, stocks. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, personal bank loan. INCOME: Congressional salary, speaking honoraria, Florida Legislature retirement money, Social Security.

REPUBLICAN

CHARLES D. PROUT, 47, is a part-time public relations consultant and co-owner of American Pasta and Grille Restaurant in Valrico. He was born in Asbury Park, N.J., and moved to Florida in 1960. Prout attended several military schools and Florida State University. He is an Air Force veteran and has worked for the Florida Development Commission, operated a firm that made TV commercials, owned travel agencies based in Atlanta, operated a film processing company and been a commodities broker and real estate investor. He is remarried and has three children. ASSETS: Personal possessions, Davis Islands home, restaurant. LIABILITIES: Mortgage. INCOME: Restaurant receipts, consulting fees.

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