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18-year U.S. House incumbent gains last-minute challenger

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000


A former television news producer was a last-minute qualifier for the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis.

Jon Duffey, 51, of Odessa, who is affiliated with the Florida Reform Party, said Friday he became interested in running for the seat after attending a Federal Drug Administration hearing last year about animal growth hormones.

"I sat there watching that hearing, and that was really the catalyst," Duffey said. "I watched how more and more of the government power is being transferred to big business."

Duffey said the incumbent is beholden to people who "hold the mortgage" on his candidacy, which wouldn't be the case should he be elected.

Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, has held the seat for 18 years. District 9 comprises parts of Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The job pays $136,673 a year.

Duffey was a producer for a local television news station when he suffered a heart attack five years ago and was advised by his doctor to leave the business. He had been in television for 25 years, he said, after graduating from Indiana University in 1973.

Since leaving television news, he has written an electronic newsletter called The Zapper, which he said he distributes to 100,000 readers worldwide. It targets people with heart troubleswho have implanted defibrillators.

He is most interested in environmental issues, curtailing development and veterans affairs.

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