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    GOP challenger tries again, in anger

    Disdain for insurance cutbacks fuels Cary Burns' rematch with the incumbent.

    By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 20, 2002


    Cary Burns ran for state representative in 1996, facing a man named Frank Farkas in the Republican primary election.

    Now, six years later, Farkas is a two-term incumbent legislator and Burns is annoyed with Farkas' stance on health insurance. That's why Burns decided to run against him again.

    "The long and the short of it is, I got back in this race because I'm mad," Burns said.

    "This is just a matter of doing what's right. . . . There are ways to fix a problem in the state without causing people to lose their coverage," Burns added.

    Burns was referring to Farkas' advocacy of a bill that would have allowed insurance companies to save money by not being required to cover a variety of procedures that are mandatory now, including mammograms, treatments for HIV-related diseases and cleft palate. The bill was later amended to keep those procedures mandatory.

    Farkas said the bill was not meant to take coverage away from anyone but to provide lower-cost insurance to the Floridians who have none. But Burns says insurance companies should not be enabled to provide policies that "really would cover next to nothing."

    Burns and Farkas are opponents in the Sept. 10 GOP primary in newly redrawn House District 52, which includes portions of northeast St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Largo. A Democrat, Christopher C. Eaton, and a Libertarian, Michael K. Barnett, also have filed paperwork to run.

    Burns, 51, said he is running because "I have a passion to do what is right for the citizens and I'm not particularly beholden to the groups that I think have taken advantage of the citizens of the state of Florida."

    He said that when voters "hear the passion in my voice," they will understand that he has "more empathy for the citizens of the state and for the voters of the state than the big insurance companies."

    Asked about specific legislative proposals, he pointed out that he would be just one of more than 100 House legislators. Therefore, he said "what I'd rather do is work with the (Republican) leadership . . . with the plans that are already existing," and offer his input to the overall GOP legislative strategy.

    Burns, of St. Petersburg, is a graduate of the University of North Florida. He has been a marine biologist, has worked for the Operation Par drug treatment program and has a home refurbishing business that he says he will put on hold if elected.

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