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Bilirakis may face challenge yet

A Palm Harbor chiropractor says he's considering entering the race for Congress.

By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published August 17, 2005

Much of the Tampa Bay and Washington Republican establishment is lining up to help state Rep. Gus Bilirakis walk into his father's congressional seat unopposed.

But that's not stopping Republican chiropractor David Langheier of Palm Harbor from looking at challenging him for the Republican nomination.

"I really think there should be choices and options in this process," said Langheier, 46. "I've done some polling, and I'm looking at it seriously."

Langheier has lived in Pinellas nearly 30 years, has a clinic in the Countryside area and has been active in the Florida Chiropractic Association. But as a first-time candidate running against a legislator who is the son of a congressman, he would be a clear underdog.

"I've never heard of him, but he'd have to be kind of foolhardy," said Pinellas GOP chairman Tony DiMatteo, suggesting that only a celebrity or millionaire willing to fund their own campaign would have much of a shot.

The heavily Republican congressional district includes parts of Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Pasco Republican chairman Bill Bunting said all three county chairs are solidly behind Bilirakis, 42, who said he has raised at least $600,000 so far.

Langheier said he is still assessing his prospects. In a veiled barb at Bilirakis, he said that he has never relied on his father to accomplish things and that "it's important that someone earn that position and not be appointed to it."

One ally of Langheier, Palm Harbor lawyer Barry Berger, said he understood Langheier already had decided to run, but Bilirakis said Langheier told him a few weeks ago he wouldn't run. Bilirakis has repeatedly said he will take nothing for granted and expects to earn the office.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727893-8241 or adam@sptimes.com

[Last modified August 17, 2005, 01:08:12]


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