The consensus among political pundits in Florida is that state Republicans won’t be hurt by the budget impasse that led the Legislature to break early last month, before they were able to pass their constitutional duties to pass a budget. Those same analysts do acknowledge that it could make a difference on the margins, in those few swing legislative districts sprinkled throughout the state.
One of those districts in the House is HD 63, currently occupied by Republican Shawn Harrison. He’s being challenged next year by Democrat Mike Reedy, who works as a statewide business organizer for Equality Florida, the biggest LGBT activist group in the state.
On Tuesday night, much of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party establishment attended a fundraiser for Reedy at the South Tampa home of Florida and Democratic National Committeeman Alan Clendenin. And the candidate is already taking shots at Harrison, referencing a recent letter that the Tampa Republican sent to the Tampa Tribune, in which he wrote that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s decision to end the legislative session three days early “was a surprise to most members, including me, but on reflection, the right decision.”
“This is the point about leadership,” Reedy emphasized. “In that op-ed he wrote that this is great that we left early, we were able to go home to our families and our constituents. Well, I didn’t see a town hall, and I’m really hoping that he took this paid vacation to write a bill, so I look forward to seeing a Harrison-sponsored bill (in the special session).”
Reedy says that Harrison failed to note in his Tribune piece that the only obligation that a member of the Florida Legislature has is to pass a budget, but says that the GOP-led Legislature had plenty of time to focus on “discriminatory policies against specific people in Florida,” referring to bills on women’s reproductive rights, a “conscience protection” bill that evolved in reaction to repealing a ban on same-sex language in state law, and a bill that would have stopped transgender people from using public restrooms aligned with their gender identity (that bill never made out of committee).
At a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce meeting last week, Harrison seemed ambivalent about supporting a plan in the state Senate that would provide for Medicaid expansion. “I’m a big believer that when the federal government has money to give to states, even if you disagree with how that fund of money was created, that we may be doing a disservice to some of our constituents if we don’t try to figure out a way to take advantage of that,” he said, before criticizing the way Medicaid currently works.
“That’s the great thing about politics,” Reedy says. “They’re able to go out there and talk at Tiger Bay’s or Chamber of Commerce and say certain things, but what the voters need to do is go out and see how someone votes because someone may say that they’re a moderate, but they’re voting very, very differently than what they say.”
Among those at the fundraiser included Pat Frank, Mike Suarez, Mary Mulhern, Patrick Manteiga, Guido Maniscalco and Mark Danish, who defeated Harrison for the HD 63 seat in 2012, but lost it back to him in 2014.
Danish is endorsing Reedy this time around, and says he thinks he has an excellent chance of defeating Harrison in 2016.
“I like the idea of getting someone who’s young, who can run around,” Danish said, adding, “You really need to walk that district. That’s what I did, that’s how I won it and that’s going to be important.”
(Florida Politics reached out to Shawn Harrison for comment before posting this article. If and when he responds, we will include his comments in an updated post).