Charlie Crist should not have endorsed Sean Shaw in HD 61 primary

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Sean Shaw is an attractive candidate.

The son of retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander J. Shaw Jr., and former insurance consumer advocate appointed in 2008 by then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Shaw looks and speaks the part of a ambitious, charismatic, ascending politician.

As a candidate for House District 61, Shaw is running a smart, well-financed campaign. According to the latest campaign finance reports, Shaw has raised more than $175,000 for his bid to represent the heavily Democratic district covering the Tampa neighborhoods of Seminole Heights, East Tampa, Ybor City and parts of West Tampa.

With his talent and pedigree and those resources, it’s difficult to imagine Shaw not defeating opponents Tatiana DensonSharon Carter and Ed Narain in the race to replace term-limited Rep. Betty Reed.

All of this said, Shaw should not have been endorsed by Charlie Crist — not because Shaw isn’t deserving of Crist’s endorsement, but because Crist should not be playing around in competitive Democratic primaries.

The race for HD 61 is just that: competitive. While Shaw has a lot of establishment support, Narain is no slouch in that department. In fact, Narain probably has as many contacts in the Tallahassee lobbying community as Shaw, who, for what it’s worth, has made more than a few enemies in the capital.

While Shaw is the on-paper frontrunner, there are some handicappers who say Narain is the candidate with the support of the average voter in the district. I won’t pretend to know too much about HD 61’s politics, other than to say Shaw vs. Narain is a race to watch these next two months.

Which is why I don’t understand why Crist — who is still trying to make friends in the Democratic Party — is meddling in one of the very few competitive Democratic legislative primaries outside of South Florida.

In announcing his endorsement, Crist said part of the reason he’s backing Shaw is that, “He stood up for average Floridians as Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate and will fight for working and middle-class families as State Representative.”

Continued Crist, “Sean will be essential in the effort to reverse Rick Scott’s devastating cuts to education and will help me fight for more funding for our kids’ schools.”

Crist almost sounds as if his endorsement of Shaw has more to do with his gubernatorial campaign than what’s best for the voters of House District 61.

After Crist made his endorsement, Narain released a statement so well-prepared that it further proves the point that Crist should have stayed out of this race.

“Yesterday, former Gov. Crist called to inform me that despite us running a great campaign he was supporting my opponent. I appreciate the governor for calling me personally, and I understand that he and Sean Shaw have a lot of history dating back to Sean’s first run for State Representative in Tallahassee.

“However, this election is not going to be decided in Mr. Shaw’s Tallahassee neighborhood, nor at his Harbor Island condominium. Nor is this race going to be determined by a statewide ballot like the governor’s race.

“This election is about the people and neighborhoods of Tampa. Those of us who live here, work here, volunteer here, and have family here. We will decide this election. Improving our schools, keeping our families and seniors safe, and bringing good jobs to our community isn’t about rubbing elbows, it’s about elbow grease.

“I remain firm in my belief that the power of the people remains stronger than the people in power.

“I welcome Sean to the Tampa area and I look forward to a vigorous campaign.”

Narain’s statement is respectful of Crist, his party’s likely standard bearer, but it also takes aim at Shaw’s Achilles’ Heal — his lack of roots to HD 61.

Still figuring out his conversion to the Democratic Party, it’s understandable that Crist is the loudest singer in the choir; the converts always are. But that doesn’t mean he should start telling people how to rewrite the songbook.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.