Gus Bilirakis: A Workhorse, Not a Show Horse
Around the State
It’s easy to overlook Gus Bilirakis, even though he's been embroiled in Florida politics for 15 years.
Bilirakis generally avoids headlines and has kept a relatively low profile in both the Florida House and in Congress. But in Tallahassee and Washington, he has put in yeoman’s work as he has slowly risen in the Republican ranks. Elected to the Florida House in 1998, Bilirakis was a mainstay Republican legislator during Jeb Bush’s tenure and he eventually rose to chair the important Economic Development, Trade and Banking Committee.
Bilirakis came into Congress as part of the leadership serving as an assistant GOP whip under Roy Blunt. The grandson of Greek immigrants, Bilirakis serves as a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues.
Despite these plums, Bilirakis attracted the attention of Republican leaders based on his work on two committees. Despite only being in his second term, from 2009-2010 he was the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight. He carved out a niche working on security issues and being a watchdog in all things Department of Homeland Security.
Bilirakis has also focused on veterans' affairs. He currently is the vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee under his fellow Florida Republican, Jeff Miller. Bilirakis has increasingly become a point man for the Republicans on the matter, leading the Republican Policy Committee’s Veterans Affairs Task Force.
Like his father, Bilirakis is a man of the House. But he will be hard-pressed if he ever decides to seek higher office. The GOP bench in Florida is crowded and he would have a hard time standing out from the pack.
At the age of 50, and having progressed up the House ranks in his time in Congress, Bilirakis seems content where he is and should be able to hold onto his seat for years to come. Even if he chooses to remain in the House, this congressman who is clearly more of a workhorse than a show horse will remain a legislative force. Certainly he isn't the flashiest politician in Florida, but he gets the job done, wins confidence and appears in good shape to continue to ascend in the House in the years ahead.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.