Charlie Crist Surprises One Runner by Backing Another in Tampa House Primary
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Barely 18 months after he joined the Democrats after winning three statewide offices as a Republican, former Gov. Charlie Crist took sides in a competitive state House primary.
Crist, the favorite for his new party’s nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott, did not back Alex Sink in her congressional race earlier in the year against Republican David Jolly, but he announced Thursday he is backing Sean Shaw in the primary to replace term-limited Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, in the Florida House.
Shaw, the son of former Chief Justice Leander Shaw, served as state insurance consumer advocate under then-state CFO Alex Sink, a Democrat, during Crist’s time as a governor when he was then a Republican.
“I’m enthusiastically supporting Sean Shaw for Florida state House because he chooses Tampa neighborhoods over politics,” Crist said on Thursday. “He stood up for average Floridians as Florida’s insurance consumer advocate and will fight for working- and middle-class families as state representative. Sean will be essential in the effort to reverse Rick Scott’s devastating cuts to education and will help me fight for more funding for our kids’ schools.”
But despite Crist’s endorsement of Shaw, businessman Ed Narain insisted he was staying in the race. In his response, Narain looked to call into question Shaw’s ties to the Tampa district, insisting his rival had more connections to Tallahassee.
“Yesterday, former Gov. Crist called to inform me that, despite us running a great campaign, he was supporting my opponent,” Narain noted on Thursday. “I appreciate the governor for calling me personally, and I understand that he and Sean Shaw have a lot of history dating back to Sean's first run for state representative in Tallahassee.
“However, this election is not going to be decided in Mr. Shaw's Tallahassee neighborhood, nor at his Harbor Island condominium. Nor is this race going to be determined by a statewide ballot like the governor's race,” Narain continued. “This election is about the people and neighborhoods of Tampa. Those of us who live here, work here, volunteer here, and have family here, we will decide this election. Improving our schools, keeping our families and seniors safe, and bringing good jobs to our community isn't about rubbing elbows, it's about elbow grease.
“I remain firm in my belief that the power of the people remains stronger than the people in power,” Narain added, before concluding with a final jab at Shaw. “I welcome Sean to the Tampa area and I look forward to a vigorous campaign.”
Both Shaw and Narain qualified for the primary ballot this week. So did businesswoman Sharon Carter, who served as vice chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee. Tatiana Denson, who challenged Reed in the Democratic primary in 2012, had yet to qualify for the ballot by Thursday afternoon. There are no Republicans or other candidates running in this heavily Democratic district.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.