Betty Reed says Ed Narain told her late last year that he would never run against her in the Senate District 19 race.
Narain says it wasn’t like that.
Even though it’s been nearly four months since Narain stunned some local observers and excited others by announcing he would be leaving his House District 61 seat to challenge Reed in the Democratic primary for the seat that encompasses parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, raw feelings persist about his decision to do so.
“I had heard several times before in Tallahassee from friends that I have up there who were telling me that he was getting in the race, and he was telling me he wasn’t,” recounted Reed Tuesday morning.
Reed represented the same district Narain now does (it used to be District 59) from 2006-2014. She was initially neutral in the race between Narain and Sean Shaw to succeed her back in 2014, before she gave Narain a crucial endorsement just a few weeks before their primary election. Narain ended up defeating Shaw, 41 percent to 35 percent.
Reed now says she regrets that decision. She says she made that choice because she thought Narain was the best candidate to represent the community. “Unfortunately, that was not true,” Reed now says. “I don’t know if he really wanted the House seat from the beginning. Maybe it was just a steppingstone for him.”
Narain says he is sincerely sorry if his entry into the race hurt Reed or her family, but says, “this is strictly about the community having a choice about who’s the best person, plain and simple.” He also says in December there was a meeting between the two, where the idea of the two switching jobs was first presented by a “third party,” but Reed rejected that idea.
The 39-year-old Narain, an area manager for AT&T and former student body president at the University of South Florida, leads the SD 19 in fundraising and has been hailed as an up-and-coming star in Florida Democratic Party circles over the past year. He thinks the personal enmity Reed now has towards him has been overblown, as has the perception his candidacy is dividing Democrats in Hillsborough County. He thinks it’s being perpetuated to help other candidates in the race. Whether that’s accurate or not, Darryl Rouson, the St. Petersburg-based lawmaker and term-limited House District 70 representative, is currently leading the race, according to a recently conducted St. Pete Polls survey.
“I still think that people have to make her own choices about who they think is best to be their state senator for the next four to eight years,” says Narain. “It would be unfortunate if people choose to make this decision based off of a perception that they don’t have all the facts on.”
His decision to challenge Reed did shock some in the community. You can include Reed in that group. Disappointed as well, she adds. “I believed him when he said he wasn’t going to get in the race.”
Narain says it was an extremely difficult decision to challenge Reed, but he says he thinks it was the right move for the community who want the best representation in the state Senate.
“I’ve had a ton of people from my district I represent now, who called and asked me to run for this seat, people that we’re supporting her who thought I was the better person for the position,” he says.
There is a fourth candidate in the race, civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro, who entered just before the qualifying deadline last month.
The Democratic primary takes place Aug. 30.