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District 48 Florida House

The incumbent and challenger in this race both focus on health care improvements, seniors' issues and more accessibility for elected officials.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


The race for state House District 48 pits an incumbent looking for his second term against an independent taking his first stab at politics.

State Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, faces newcomer Chris Gregg of Palm Harbor for a seat covering parts of north Pinellas, Clearwater and northwestern Hillsborough County.

Both say they support health care improvements, seniors' issues and increased accessibility of elected officials.

"My best asset is I'm a good listener and I'm open," Bilirakis says. "I try to be as accessible as I can, and I attend as many functions as I can because it is very important that a person feels comfortable to walk up to their representative and express their views."

Gregg has promised not to accept money from special interest groups or "big business" and to push for campaign finance reform.

"I will be 100 percent accountable and answer to the constituents in District 48," Gregg says. "I will not sell my vote, trade, do favors or anything that people associate politicians with."

Bilirakis says during his first term he has supported or sponsored bills that improved hospice care, made prescription drugs more affordable and required schools to teach about veterans for Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

"We felt that it was absolutely necessary that children be taught the sacrifices of veterans," Bilirakis says.

Gregg's campaign faced some early difficulty when the St. Petersburg Times reported that before qualifying as a candidate he had never voted in an election. He also accumulated 20 traffic tickets in 13 years and has a 1996 bankruptcy that stemmed from a traffic accident.

He says he filed for bankruptcy protection under the advice of his attorney after his insurance company went out of business without settling claims filed by the driver of the other vehicle. Of the speeding tickets, he told a Times reporter, "A driver's license record doesn't mean anything. I guess you could say I speed a lot and I get a lot of tickets" for a story published Aug. 1.

Gregg has been registered to vote for candidates and on referendums in Pinellas County since the 1996 presidential election but said he refrained from voting because "special interests have been running the government so, regardless of the candidate, I didn't feel comfortable voting."

He said he has met with more than 10 local organizations and spent more than 30 hours meeting every public school principal in the district.

"I want the job 10 times more than (Bilirakis) does and that's why I work harder than he does," Gregg said. "I'm a candidate committed to solutions and not slogans."

THE JOB

State House District 48 includes portions of northwest Hillsborough County and Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor and Clearwater in Pinellas County. State representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $27,900 annually. A map of Florida House districts appears elsewhere in this edition.

REPUBLICAN

GUS BILIRAKIS, 37, is vying for his second term in the Legislature. He is an estate planning and real estate attorney and the son of longtime U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs. The younger Bilirakis born in Gainesville, was raised in Tarpon Springs and graduated from Tarpon Springs High School. He received a political science degree from the University of Florida in 1986 and graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 1989. Along with his law practice, he is an adjunct professor of American government at the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg Junior College. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: home, apartment, bank account and stocks. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: law practice and salary as a legislator and junior college instructor.

NO PARTY

CHRIS GREGG, 31, is the Hillsborough County regional manager for Med Tech Laboratories. He was born in Milwaukee, moved to Pinellas County in 1974 and lives in Palm Harbor. He joined the Air Force in 1991 and was a flight medic. Gregg, who has a twin brother, graduated from Gaither High School in Hillsborough County and has an associate's degree from North Seattle Community College. He is single. ASSETS: bank account. LIABILITIES: student loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: http://www.votegregg.com.

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