U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis, a congressman since 1982, won a decisive victory in the Republican primary race against a Safety Harbor city commissioner who campaigned largely on the issue of term limits.
As of late Tuesday, the 9th District congressman had beaten his opponent, Pamela Mills Corbino, by a 4-to-1 ratio.
Corbino, a 47-year-old schoolteacher with little political experience, took on the incumbent, arguing Bilirakis had been in office too long. She characterized the race as David versus Goliath. In this case, Goliath prevailed.
Bilirakis, who represents a district that stretches from Clearwater and Tarpon Springs in Pinellas County to portions of Hillsborough and central Pasco counties, will now face a Democrat, Jerry Provenzano, in the general election Nov. 5. Provenzano is a former mayor of Oldsmar.
Corbino conceded defeat early Tuesday evening, saying she hoped to get a better percentage of votes by night's end. But the numbers never improved.
"We went into this knowing we didn't have much money and we had a hard fight ahead of us. We certainly are not going to sit around and cry."
Bilirakis, in a telephone interview late Tuesday, said he was satisfied with his victory. "We had a credible candidate against us. I certainly did not expect to do that well, but it makes it all the more sweet."
Bilirakis had never run for political office before winning his congressional seat in 1982.
While in office, he has focused on health care reform and issues affecting seniors and veterans.
Corbino was the third candidate to challenge the congressman in a primary. In 1992, former state House Rep. Patricia A. "Trish" Muscarella was beaten, getting 33 percent of the vote. In the 1990 primary, Bilirakis defeated John Freehafer.