There are only two state House primary races in Hillsborough County this year, one Democrat and one Republican.
In each case, the victor will face only write-in opposition in the fall, so the primary vote is virtually certain to decide who will serve in the Legislature.
Four Democratic candidates are seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Betty Reed in a district that covers parts of East Tampa, Seminole Heights, West Tampa and Ybor City.
Sharon Carter, 49, is an energy consultant with deep community roots and a history of civic involvement.
She believes the state’s obsession with student testing is causing some students to drop out. Carter would champion economic development in the district.
Tatiana Denson, 35, challenged Reed two years ago, arguing the district needed younger, more energetic representation. The health care consultant believes the district should better capitalize on Port Tampa Bay, and she would work to make it easier for ex-criminal offenders to find jobs.
The two candidates we believe would be most effective in Tallahassee are Ed Narain and Sean Shaw.
They are personable, informed and offer notable records of accomplishments.
Narain, 37, is an AT&T manager who recently completed law school.
Unemployment is his top concern, and he would fight to fund more job training and retraining.
He believes the state needs to refocus on its public schools. Although he does not oppose charter schools, he believes they need to be held more accountable. Like all the candidates in the race, he believes the state should accept the federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage.
Narain understands the needs of business and the importance of financial literacy. He also has demonstrated his commitment to the district through extensive volunteer work.
We have no doubt he would be an effective lawmaker.
But the candidate we believe is best prepared to make an impact in Tallahassee is Sean Shaw, a 36-year-old lawyer.
Critics have labeled him a carpetbagger because he moved to Hillsborough four years ago, but he seems committed to the district and has a strong background of fighting for the public.
Shaw, the son of retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander J. Shaw Jr., served as Florida’s insurance consumer advocate under former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who supports him.
He later founded Policyholders of Florida, a consumer advocacy group.
He says citizens need a stronger voice in Tallahassee, which is dominated by special interests.
“Tallahassee isn’t about fairness,” he says. “I’m used to fighting the big guys.”
He understands how a lawmaker in the minority party can help constituents not only by passing legislation but also by blocking and revising bad bills.
Shaw is committed to economic development and understands how improving the district’s infrastructure and transportation system can generate investment and jobs.
He believes public schools deserve more support, and says there should be greater emphasis on vocational schools.
Shaw may be a relative newcomer to the area, but he understands its needs, as well as how to fight in Tallahassee.
In the Democratic primary for District 61, The Tampa Tribune endorses Sean Shaw.
In an odd twist, incumbent Republican Rep. Jamie Grant is facing Miriam Steinberg, whose husband, attorney Michael Steinberg, ran against Grant as a Democrat in 2010.
It appeared Grant would have no opposition until her last-minute filing, which was followed by the filing of a write-in candidate for the fall election. This will keep the Republican primary from being open to all voters.
Despite all the machinations, which included her husband challenging the residency of the write-in candidate, Steinberg says there is no ulterior motive to her race.
The 54-year-old chemical engineer says she is a lifelong Republican who believes in small government and fiscal restraint.
She laments the partisan divide and feels she is “uniquely qualified to bring people together.”
Her priority would be education, but she says supporting schools is not enough. A stable home life and a strong economy also enhance education.
Grant, 31, was first elected in 2010. He has represented the district — which includes the northwestern corner of Hillsborough and an eastern slice of Pinellas — well.
He has sought to cut government, but understands the value of wise state investments.
Grant demonstrated unusual moxie when he bucked party leadership and opposed cutting support for Moffitt Cancer Center in 2011. It cost him a leadership position, but he also has been able to ensure continued support for Moffitt.
He’s taken a lead in seeking to deregulate the taxi and hired-vehicle business.
Grant blundered, in our view, by getting involved in a Hardee County high-tech venture that used public economic development funds. An investigation found no wrongdoing, but Grant should stay away from such potential conflicts.
Still, Grant has been an effective lawmaker, one who listens to constituents and works on their behalf in Tallahassee.
In the Republican primary for state House District 64, The Tampa Tribune recommends Jamie Grant.