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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Dist. 61 candidates ask for your vote – and haven’t missed a vote themselves

— Those running in the House District 61 race, like most candidates, have been encouraging people to get out and vote.

And they practice what they preach.

All four Democratic candidates for term-limited state Rep. Betty Reed’s seat have solid attendance records at the local ballot box for the last decade, according to records from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

One candidate, however, had a spottier attendance record in his previous place of residence.

The supervisor’s office provided voting histories for the candidates after a public records request from the Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau.

In Florida, voting histories are open records. Those histories show whether a registered voter cast a ballot in an election cycle in which he or she was eligible to vote, but they don’t show how the person voted.

Sharon Carter, Tatiana M. Denson, Ed Narain and Sean Shaw all voted on Election Day, voted early or voted absentee in every race they were eligible to cast a ballot, available records show.

For Carter and Denson, who identify themselves as lifelong Hillsborough residents, the voting office has records dating back to 2004 and 2003, respectively.

Hillsborough elections spokeswoman Gerri Kramer referred questions about Carter’s and Denson’s lack of prior voting history to the candidates. Both could not be immediately reached Friday; Carter’s campaign website also was offline.

Denson has said she moved often in her late teens and early twenties while taking care of her two children.

Narain has been a Hillsborough resident for about 20 years. His available voting history goes back to the 1996 election.

“If you live someplace, voting is simply part of what you do,” he said. “Our community can never be what we want it to be if we don’t become part of the process.”

Shaw is originally from Tallahassee, having moved to Tampa four years ago to practice law.

His Leon County voting history shows Shaw cast a ballot in nine out of 20 elections he could have voted in, a 45 percent personal turnout rate, from 1998 to 2010.

He did not vote in six consecutive elections from September 1998 to October 2000, including Florida’s presidential preference primary, according to Leon County Supervisor of Elections records.

Shaw attended Princeton University in New Jersey as an undergraduate from 1996-2000.

“In retrospect, I do wish I had been better about voting absentee and knowing the election laws,” Shaw said. “Frankly, that’s one of the reasons I’m proud that our campaign has done so much outreach to young voters.”

Shaw added that the District 61 race isn’t about “who has the better voting record,” but “who has a better vision for making Tampa a better place to live, work and raise a family. And I believe I’m the better candidate.”

The primary election is Tuesday. One of the four Democrats will go on to face write-in candidate Nicole Santiago in November’s general election.

But since no write-in has ever won legislative office in Florida, Tuesday’s winner almost certainly will take Reed’s place in the House of Representatives.

Carter, 49, is an energy consultant. Denson, 35, is a health care consultant. Narain, 37, is an area retail manager for AT&T. Shaw, 36, is a lawyer and former state insurance consumer advocate.

The heavily Democratic district includes East Tampa, Seminole Heights, West Tampa and Ybor City. No Republican filed to run for the seat.

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