In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Name: Gus Bilirakis
Office: Representative for FL-12 Congressional Seat
I’ve served in this position since first being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. Previously, I served eight years in the Florida Legislature and was a practicing attorney and small business owner in our community for many years. In Congress, I currently serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee, VA Committee, Health Subcommittee, Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and VA Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee. I am also the Ranking Member on the VA Economic Opportunities Subcommittee. I was recently named the Most Bipartisan Member of Congress from the state of Florida by the Lugar Center (2020) and Florida's most Effective Member of Congress from Vanderbilt University (2018-this is the most recent time the distinction was given as it is only evaluated every 2 years). Since 2015, 38 bills I’ve authored have been signed into law, including 11 as a Member of the minority party.
Why should voters vote for you?
I’ve proven myself to be an effective consensus builder who reaches across the aisle to get things done for my constituents and community. I’m proud of my strong record of constituent service and legislative success, and I will continue to always do what is right for my constituents.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
I believe we must work together to pass a consensus bill that will provide immediate relief to individuals, small businesses and essential systems (schools, hospitals, first responders, etc.) negatively impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, I will continue to fight for the following urgent priorities: Fixing our broken mental health system, Reducing the price of prescription drugs, Protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, Ensuring the solvency of Medicare and Social Security, Rebuilding our economy and helping to facilitate job growth, Fighting to make sure our Veterans and active duty receive the benefits and care they have earned, Supporting Law Enforcement to keep our communities safe, Protecting our Natural Resources, Investing in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and Eliminating robocalls.
What are three key messages of your campaign?
- This is a critical time in our nation. We need leaders with the courage to work together to solve the challenges facing our country. I have the record that proves I can continue to do this.
- Specifically, we must: Restore our Way of Life, Rebuild the Greatest Economy of our Generation and Renew the American Dream for future generations. I have filed legislation to achieve all of these important goals.
- A society can be judged on the basis of how it treats its most vulnerable. I will always fight to protect these groups, especially our seniors, Veterans, the disabled and children. My legislative track record proves this.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
I’m most passionate about my work to protect Veterans and seniors, to fix our nation’s broken mental healthcare system and maintain protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
Overall, I think the National Pandemic Task Force spearheaded by Vice President Pence has done a very good job responding to this unprecedented pandemic and while many people are still hurting, the economy is rebounding more quickly than anyone anticipated. The CARES Act, passed by Congress with my support, was historic in the level of support provided to individuals, small businesses, state and local governments, and critical systems of care. Concrete plans are in place to build upon what has already been accomplished. For example, we are tripling the amount of available rapid-response tests for vulnerable populations, working to develop and distribute a safe and effective vaccine and facilitating new job growth. We have learned lessons during this experience. For example, our nation’s medical supply chain has become far too reliant on other countries, such as China and India. This reliance contributed to the early shortages in PPE that we experienced and necessitated use of the Defense Product Act in order to domestically produce the supplies we needed. We must address this critical issue immediately to ensure we are better prepared for future emergencies. Additionally, we know too many Americans and small businesses are still experiencing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. However, instead of contemplating serious relief measures with bipartisan support, the Speaker of the House has opted to play politics. Americans should not be used as pawns or leverage for political gain during a national crisis. While this should have been addressed months ago, I would certainly welcome my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in finding common ground on this important issue.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
There is simply no place for racism or discrimination in our society. We must continue to look for opportunities where this is occurring and address it. For example, our committee examined racial disparities in maternal mortality rates. Most of the deaths occurring were from preventable causes. Last month, we passed legislation that would address this critical issue. I’ve found similar racial disparities in health outcomes through my work on the Peripheral artery disease (PAD) Caucus, and I’m working with a bipartisan group of colleagues to develop legislative solutions to these issues.
What motivates you to run for public office?
I have a strong passion for public service, and I am committed to strengthening my community by helping others. While I am certainly proud of my legislative accomplishments, the most meaningful moments in my career have come from the help I’ve been able to offer individual constituents. Whether it be helping a local Veteran finally receive his VA disability payment just weeks prior to his death, assisting an 8 year-old girl gain access to the cancer treatment she needs or ensuring a five year old boy fighting a terminal illness has the life-extending medication he needs—I know without a doubt that I have made a meaningful impact on the lives of individual constituents and that drives me to keep going.