Republican Gus Bilirakis won Tuesday night’s race for the U.S. House District 12 seat, according to the Associated Press. By 8:40 p.m., he led with close to 63 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.
“I’m just so grateful to my constituents for giving me the opportunity to serve,” Bilirakis said.
The congressman called it a “textbook campaign,” with several volunteers working to support him. In interviews with reporters Tuesday night, he reiterated his commitment to bipartisanship and veterans issues such burn pit exposures.
“It’s the Agent Orange of our generation,” he said.
Bilirakis, 57, has served seven terms in Congress and is currently on committees for energy and commerce, and veterans affairs. He has made bipartisanship a central message. His priorities for an eighth term include passing bills to penalize insurance companies that ignore legal requirements to provide the same coverage for mental and physical health care, and ensuring coverage for veterans with conditions related to toxins from burn pits.
His district covers northern Pinellas, all of Pasco and a sliver of northwest Hillsborough counties.
By early October, Bilirakis’ campaign had outraised his challenger by about $1 million.
Democrat Kimberly Walker, 51, is a software engineer for the Department of Treasury. She previously worked as a state correctional officer and served active duty in the Army and the Florida Air National Guard. Her priorities centered on jobs, veteran services and education, including proposing a program to better screen soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder before they are discharged, and calling for the end of student-loan interest rates.
Walker congratulated Bilirakis in an interview Tuesday night and said she looks forward to working with him to make things better for residents in Pasco County.
“I knew it was going to be an uphill race,” Walker said. “Nobody knew who I was when I started running.”
U.S. representatives are elected to two-year terms and are paid $174,000 annually.
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