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Florida's GOP Leader Dies From Lou Gehrig's Disease

TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) -- Republican Party Chairman David Bitner has died, the party announced Thursday.

Bitner announced just eight days ago that he would step down as chairman at the end of this month, unable to continue because of his battle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Bitner lost the battle Thursday at the age of 62.

The former state representative from Port Charlotte learned in April that he had ALS, an incurable disease that progressively attacks the brain and spine and leads to complete paralysis. Bitner said at the time he announced his diagnosis that he would carry out his duties as long as he could.

Bitner, a former state legislator from southwest Florida, was chosen as the new party chairman last January.

There were no details immediately available on funeral arrangements.

Thursday afternoon, Governor Rick Scott released a statement expressing his condolences to the Bitner family.

"Knowing that Chairman Bitner faced an uphill battle with his illness did not make this morning's news any less of a shock.  Dave Bitner was a big man with a vibrant personality and a vision to match.  Ann and I will miss him very much, and our immediate thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Wendy."

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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