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Friday, Jan 18, 2019
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GOP's Bilirakis faces young challenger for U.S. House

TAMPA - When U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis first was elected to Congress in 2006, Jonathan Michael Snow was a 19-year-old college sophomore starting a new job at Walgreens. Six years later, Bilirakis is seeking a fourth term to the U.S. House of Representatives. Snow, now 25, is making his political debut as Bilirakis' Democratic opponent for a U.S. House seat in a newly drawn district where both men are unfamiliar to some voters. Bilirakis and Snow, both Palm Harbor residents, are vying to represent Florida's 12th District, a congressional seat with new district boundaries drawn by state lawmakers this year. The district spans Pasco County and stretches from coastal north Pinellas County into parts of northwest Hillsborough County. Bilirakis, 49, has championed veterans' causes since he succeeded his father, Mike Bilirakis, in Congress in 2006. The Republican currently represents Florida's 9th District, an area stretching from coastal Pasco and north Pinellas into parts of north and east Hillsborough.
He supports more services for veterans in health care and education. Bilirakis advocates expanding therapeutic care programs such as the Heroes Ranch, coordinated through James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital for severely wounded warriors. He will "hold institutions accountable and transparent when veterans are trying to get services," Bilirakis said. Bilirakis backs job training for middle-age veterans. "We want to make sure community colleges can provide those classes and services," said Bilirakis, who teaches American government part-time at St. Petersburg College. On domestic matters, Bilirakis supports curbing federal spending, strengthening homeland security, lowering taxes, reducing the national debt and fast-tracking the Keystone Pipeline project, he said. Snow, a photo specialist at a Walgreens store in Holiday, said his mission on Capitol Hill would be to strengthen the economy, fight for jobs and increase wages for average workers. He brushed aside questions about his age. Instead, Snow described the benefits to the district if he is elected to Congress at 25, the minimum age at which a person may serve. "I hear people say, 'It's about time younger people got involved in politics,' " Snow said. "I have the energy and stamina to work harder." In his campaign, Snow touts progressive ideas on ways to help jumpstart the economy. He wants to establish and modernize federal programs in the mold of the Works Progress Administration: "It was responsible for big projects such as the Hoover Dam," Snow said. "Our country faces a lot of challenges," Snow said. "A lot of career politicians are not ready to deal with them. I want to add my voice and ideas, and those of voters, to make a difference."

GUS BILIRAKIS

Age: 49

Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Florida; law degree, Stetson University

Family: Married, four children

Home: Palm Harbor

Professional experience: Senior partner, Bilirakis Law Group; teaches American government at St. Petersburg College.

Political experience: Florida state House, 1998-2006; U.S. congressman since 2006

Website: www.bilirakisforcongress.com

JONATHAN MICHAEL SNOW

Age: 25

Education: Associate degree, St. Petersburg College; bachelor's degree, University of South Florida

Family: Single

Home: Palm Harbor

Professional experience: Photo specialist at a Walgreens

Political experience: None

Website: www.snowforcongress.com


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