In Tampa’s House District 61, the bottom line was Tallahassee experience versus community activism.
In the end, voters chose the candidate they believed is best person to serve their interests — community activist Ed Narain who narrowly defeated attorney Sean Shaw in Tuesday’s Democrat primary. With 324 of 347 of Hillsborough’s precincts in, Narain was ahead by 630 votes.
Democrat Sharon Carter came in third followed by Tatiana Denson.
Although both candidates proved to be capable of addressing the concerns of the residents of HD 61, a Democratic district covering Seminole Heights, East Tampa, Ybor City and parts of West Tampa, voters favored Narain a longtime Tampa resident, although Shaw was by far the leader in the money race.
Narain, endorsed by term-limited state Rep. Betty Reed, the lawmaker he ran to succeed, provided a strong resume, with an emphasis on community. He currently serves as an AT&T District Manager who won three Top Performance Area Manager in Florida awards. While attending the University of South Florida, Narain was Student Body President. After putting himself through graduate school, Narain then earned an MBA from St. Leo University and a 2013 Law Degree from Stetson University College of Law.
Shaw, appointed in 2008 by then-state CFO Alex Sink to serve as insurance consumer advocate, had focused on his experiences in the Florida Capitol. As Advocate, he managed fifteen state employees to protect Floridians families and businesses on insurance matters. Shaw also founded the Policyholders of Florida, a consumer advocacy coalition.
The one issue Shaw couldn’t shake was the “carpetbagger” label, since he arrived in Tampa only four years ago; it left many voters with the feeling he was an outsider more concerned with politics than the district.
As for fundraising, most of Shaw’s support originated from interests outside the Tampa area — nearly doubling the contributions for Narain, a local candidate whose fundraising predominantly came from within HD 61. Shaw finished his primary campaign with just over $224K, compared to Narain, who ran a successful campaign with only $142K.
Narain will now face write-in candidate Nicole Santiago in November, meaning that his win Tuesday evening will likely have him going to Tallahassee.