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Incumbent strides ahead of newcomer

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


PALM HARBOR -- Republican Gus Bilirakis held an imposing lead Tuesday night over an independent challenger in his attempt to win a second term as the representative from House District 48.

The seat covers East Lake, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, east Clearwater and parts of Palm Harbor and northwest Hillsborough County.

With about 71 percent of the precincts counted, Bilirakis led by a ratio of more than 3-to-1 over political newcomer Chris Gregg, 31, who contended that the incumbent was beholden to special-interest groups.

"I just try to look forward and not respond to those types of negative attacks," Bilirakis said.

"I'm very grateful to the voters and I won't let them down."

Gregg's grass-roots campaign included a promise not to accept money from special-interest groups or corporations.

"I think for the amount of money he spent and I spent, (the result) is proportionate," Gregg said.

"This was my first time, so I didn't know what to expect. I will be running again."

Bilirakis, 37, an estate planning and real estate attorney, is the son of longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.

"I'm proud of my dad's name, extremely proud," he said. "The name recognition helps, but I have to prove myself."

Gregg, 31, was born in Milwaukee, moved to Pinellas County in 1974 and lives in Palm Harbor. He graduated from Gaither High School in Hillsborough County and joined the Air Force in 1991.

This is the second time Bilirakis has won easily. In 1998, he defeated Democrat Diane Ellis by an almost 3-to-1 ratio.

Gregg had never voted in an election before qualifying as a candidate.

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