Bilirakis, Busansky Hold Deuling Events

Phyllis Busansky
TAMPA -

APPLAUSE

Usually, when he takes the stage at events, the president is surrounded by countless local officials and party loyalists - not this time.

State Representative Gus Bilirakis was the only one standing with President Bush on a stage set up at the club level at Raymond James Stadium.

And the Republican candidate for Congressional District 9 reveled in it.

BILIRAKIS: I look forward to working with President Bush in Washington. I know that only a Republican majority in Congress teamed with President Bush will be able to ensure the continued prosperity and security of our nation. And, by the way Mr. President, thank you for keeping us safe.

In a 25 minute speech, President Bush opened with a familiar theme - tax cuts.

BUSH: Gus has made his position clear and so have I. We're going to let you keep more of your own money. But the Democrats have made their position clear too. I want you to remember. The last time they had control of the United States Congress back in 1993 they passed a massive tax increase.

But, the president's mention of U.S. troops generated the biggest response from about 400 supporters who stood throughout the event. President Bush continued to reinforce his message that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism.

BUSH: The most important job that the congressman will have is to join with other members of congress and the administration to protect the United States of America. Applause. 27

It's a message that resonates well with supporters like Joanie Sigal with Florida Citizens for Social Reform of Clearwater.

SIGAL: I loved the president's speech. I think he's got a lot of the right things in mind in terms of the safety of the country and the safety of our troops overseas. And I'm pleased to be here today.

REPORTER: Did you hear any messages today that you thought were new?

SIGAL: I don't know if I heard anything that I thought was new. But I thought that he was much more at ease here with this group today and much less formal and I just basically liked everything he had to say.

The Democrat who wants to be Florida's next District 9 member of Congress was holding a campaign event of her own.

In a symbolic gesture, Phyllis Busansky bought yellow rice and chicken for 35 homeowners whose property insurance had increased $1000 or more - the same as the contribution required to attend the president's event.

BUSANSKY: This is just real people talking about real issues. The president and my opponent are not talking about home insurance and these people are all getting hit hard. And my opponent Gus Bilirakis has been in the legislature for almost eight years and has never done anything about home-owners insurance nothing for his constituents. Zero.

Busansky believes the insurance fix must start at the federal level and she says to do that - there must be a change in congress.

BUSANSKY: You can't change Congress unless you change the people who are going there. It's not a legacy job. It's not why we fought the American Revolution. It isn't inherited. It goes for vision and leadership and that's what I bring.

But it will be a tough race for the former Hillsborough County Commissioner. Her opponent has name recognition. Bilirakis' father has held the seat for 24 years. He's getting high-powered help from the president and vice president. And, the district has more registered Republicans than Democrats.

But, there is a large number of independent voters like Shawna Plunkett of Wesley Chapel. A friend invited her to the Busansky event.

PLUNKETT: My husband just started his own business and he builds homes so his insurance was so ridiculously overpriced and our insurance increased since last year. But between those two coverages we spend over three months salary on insurance, not including health insurance or car insurance.

REPORTER: The president is less than a mile away and he was talking about protecting the U.S. as being the primary reason to send a Republican to Congress.

PLUNKETT: I think the president has been using that fear tactic as a way to make people want to vote for his party and I don't necessarily believe it's the right decision. Because decisions based on fear are never good decisions.

In just over six weeks - voters will decide who will represent District 9 in Washington.

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