By Matt Wiley
District 9 U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-Palm Harbor) believes that Wesley Chapel voters will play a larger role in the upcoming November elections.
As the sun went down on August 9, or less than a week before the August 14 primary elections, Rep. Bilirakis made an appearance at the monthly Wesley Chapel Republican Club (WCRC), which meets on the second floor of Wesley Chapel Hyundai on S.R. 54. The room was a packed house, as Bilirakis and District 11 U.S. Congressman Rich Nugent (R-Brooksville) — who previously represented Wesley Chapel in Congress until new redistricting maps were approved earlier this year — discussed the upcoming presidential election with members of the WCRC. It was also a moment for Rep. Nugent to “pass the torch” to Bilirakis.
“It’s a great District, and I’m honored to represent it,” he said. “It’s a critical time. Once we get the primaries done with, we need to come back together as party and family. If we stick together to get the vote out there, we will win!”
Bilirakis confessed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wasn’t his first choice for the Republican nomination to take on U.S. President Barack Obama in November, but he said that he now backs him 100 percent. He explained that he thinks that a previous CEO is exactly what this country needs.
He went on to discuss his disapproval of the recently approved Obama healthcare plan.
“We need to repeal ‘Obamacare,’” he explained. “But, we need to be able to replace it with a free market solution. We need to step to the plate to save Medicare and protect our seniors.”
Bilirakis also voiced his support for the owner of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy, whose recent comments and stance on same-sex marriages has stirred up controversy nationwide.
“Cathy stood up and spoke his mind,” Bilirakis said. “He wasn’t scared about how it would affect his business. That’s what we need.”
One of the last points Bilirakis touched on was his support for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Veterans are our priority,” he said. “We need to hold universities accountable for making sure that vets are getting their G.I. Bill.”
He explained how, as vice chairman of the veterans affairs committee, he recently passed legislation that will help make sure that veterans receive their benefits. Although he didn’t name it in the meeting, the bill is called the Honoring America’s Veterans Act, and it requires the Veterans Administration to report the number of veterans using the education benefits, the cost and number of credit hours earned, as well as how many veterans are earning their degrees.
“If you work hard, and believe in an issue, you can make it happen,” he said.
Following his speech, Bilirakis and Nugent answered questions from WCRC members. Some of the issues that arose were the Republican Party’s message not being heard and the party’s ability to pass legislation.
“We have press conferences outside the Capitol building in Washington, DC, but you never see them in Florida,” explained Nugent. “NBC and ABC are there, but they don’t broadcast because our message isn’t the one they want out there.”
In response to the media calling Republicans, who now control the House, inefficient at passing legislation, both had passionate responses.
“We’ve passed more bills, and allowed both parties to make amendments, in two years, than the Democrats did in four,” said Nugent.
“I think we’ve been pretty darn productive,” Bilirakis added.
The Wesley Chapel Republican Club meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Wesley Chapel Hyundai, located at 27000 Wesley Chapel Blvd. For more information, call Mike Moore at 777-6171, or send an email to WCRepublican@att.net.