Congressman Bilirakis chose partisan games over the national interest | Editorial
Rep. Gus Bilirakis had no good reason to get involved in a lawsuit filed out of Texas contesting the presidential election results.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, in a political debate
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, in a political debate [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Dec. 16, 2020

Gus Bilirakis should know better than to put partisan games above the national interest. At least, we thought he did until he chose to support a frivolous lawsuit out of Texas that only further undermined a free and fair election. We didn’t expect the Republican congressman from Palm Harbor to publicly condemn President Donald Trump’s attempts to hijack the results. He’s not that kind of elected official. But he could have remained silent. That wouldn’t have been particularly courageous, but at least he wouldn’t have promulgated a bushel of half truths and corrosive lies. Instead, he buckled, and leaned on a rickety stack of lame excuses to defend his actions. Disappointing is an understatement.

The legal brief Bilirakis signed onto was filed in support of a lawsuit filed by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The lawsuit requested that the U.S. Supreme Court grant state legislatures the opportunity in four key presidential states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — to choose their Electoral College electors rather than follow the will of the voters. All four states just so happened to have voted in favor of Democrat Joe Biden. And all four have Republican-controlled legislatures. On Friday, the Supreme Court promptly rejected the tortured legal argument.

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Bilirakis said that he supported the failed lawsuit “to help restore confidence in the fact that our electoral process is fair and transparent.” He alleged that Americans were “disturbed by multiple reports of voter irregularities.” But there’s no evidence that the electoral process has been anything but fair and transparent. That’s precisely what makes Bilirakis’ statement — and his involvement in this brief — so ridiculous. If he wanted to restore faith in the system, then come out after the Nov. 3 election and acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect, or at least acknowledge that no one with any credibility has found even an inkling of widespread elections fraud. Don’t support a lawsuit that perpetuates the dangerous myth that the election was rigged. Instead of choosing real leadership, Bilirakis stood with the people who are hacking away at the pillars of our democracy.

Bilirakis wasn’t alone — 10 Republican members of Congress from Florida supported the Texas lawsuit. They all need to come to grips with a simple reality: Trump lost a fair election.

A member of Congress since 2007, Bilirakis is in an enviable position. He usually easily wins his safely Republican district. He was just re-elected with a whopping 62.9 percent of the vote. He could have refrained from supporting the lawsuit without jeopardizing his political future. And yet, he didn’t. He cast common sense aside and chose loyalty to a one-term president. He should know better.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.