Former President Donald Trump is throwing his weight behind U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Florida’s 12th Congressional District.
Bilirakis, who has served the district since 2013. Before that, he served a similar area covering North Pinellas and parts of Pasco and Hillsborough counties in what was then Florida’s 9th Congressional District since 2007. His father, Michael Bilirakis, served the district from 1983 until passing the torch to his son, creating a nearly four-decade legacy.
He’s not facing significant opposition in the GOP Primary — one candidate is filed with the state, but not the Federal Elections Commission, which allows candidates to raise and spend money — and what Democratic opposition exists is largely unfunded by congressional race standards.
Trump’s nod means his easy race next year is likely to stay that way.
“Congressman Gus Bilirakis has been a tremendously effective lawmaker for the wonderful State of Florida. He is an incredible advocate for Energy Independence, Healthcare, and the American Worker,” Trump said in a statement endorsing Bilirakis. “He will always Protect and Defend our Second Amendment. Gus fights so hard for our brave Military and Veterans, and is very Strong on Border Security. Gus Bilirakishas (sic) my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
Two Democrats are filed to take on Bilirakis in the General Election, but for now, they don’t appear to be serious contenders in a historically red district with an overwhelming Republican voter advantage — of the district’s nearly 585,000 voters, more than 237,000 are registered Republicans while only 175,000 are Democrats.
Kimberly Walker has raised less than $4,000 as of the end of September, according to Federal Election Commission data. Bill Vanhorn has raised less than $11,000. Meanwhile, Bilirakis has raised nearly $600,000 this year.
While Trump’s nod curries favor with the former President’s base, Bilirakis is known for his ability to work across the aisle.
Bilirakis ranked 32nd out of 437 in the Lugar Center Bipartisan Index last year. He sponsored 24 bills in the 116th Congress, most of which include Democratic co-sponsors. From 2015 to 2018, Bilirakis authored 27 bills signed into law, earning him a “Most Effective Lawmaker in the State of Florida” designation from the Center for Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt University.
In 2020, he scored a resounding reelection victory last year with 63% of the vote over Walker.