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HD 59 Democratic candidate Naze Sahebzamani says she’s okay that she’s not the party favorite

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

As reported last week, incoming House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is convinced the Democrats can flip six seats from red to blue in the state House elections this fall.

To accomplish that ambitious goal, the party has invested resources into some of its competitive primaries this summer, including the House District 59 race between educator Naze Sahebzamani and attorney Rena Frazier.

Specifically, the party is paying for Frazier’s campaign manager.

Sahebzamani says that’s disappointing, but she says it doesn’t affect her confidence that she can win the primary in eastern Hillsborough County Aug. 30.

“They said that they weren’t going to take sides in the primary, and then they decided to,” she said on Monday in East Tampa, where she appeared at a news conference calling on the state to change the law banning ex-felons from having their rights automatically restored after serving their sentence.

“But you know what?” Sahebzamani added, ” I’m not worried about it. I have the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. So with the union behind me, and my teachers behind me, I think it’s going to be a great race.”

Cruz says candidates had to follow certain guidelines to earn the party’s support, including the ability to raise their own campaign cash. She said that once those candidates proved they could do so, “we’re going to pay attention and we’re going to help you.”

Frazier has raised significantly more campaign money than has Sahebzamani. As of the end of last week, Sahebzamani raised just under $33,000, while Frazier had brought in more than $115,000.

“She’s raising more money, but I’ve been working as a full-time teacher and campaigning at the same time, and so at the same time, knowing the community and being a part of it, I think is far more important than being able to raise money,” Sahebzamani says.

Frazier is raising most of her money in Tampa and not inside Brandon, she said, where much of the district resides. “She’s getting businesses and lawyers, but I’ve been getting money from union members and friends and family, and so I’m pretty excited about it.”

Frazier has received the lion’s share of endorsements in the primary, where the winner will go on to face GOP incumbent Ross Spano in November.

“They were looking for somebody with the ability to raise some funds and get some support from the community before they stepped in,” Frazier says regarding the FDP allocating funds to pay for her campaign manager.

Frazier was making the rounds with the public Monday night at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s “Hob Nob,” where the downtown business crowd chose her over Sahebzamani in the event’s straw poll (though Frazier still finished below Spano).

“I’m very excited, and the race is going very well,” she added, regarding her chances of advancing in next month’s primary election.

President Obama did win HD 59 in both 2008 and 2012, and Frazier says that bodes well for whoever advances out of the Democratic primary, though, in fact, Spano also won the district in 2012, an area which includes Brandon/Bloomingdale/Valrico and Dover, where Spano resides.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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