Colleen Burton and John Hugh Shannon Get Set to Run for Open House Seat in Polk

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: March 22, 2014 3:55 AM
Coleen Burton and John Hugh Shannon

Coleen Burton and John Hugh Shannon

With Seth McKeel headed out of Tallahassee due to term limits, two Polk County Republicans are set to duel in what should be one of the most competitive legislative primaries in Florida this year.

For most of last year, Colleen Burton had the field to herself. Burton’s well-known in Polk through her work with Polk Vision and her bid against Lori Edwards, the Democrat serving as county elections supervisor, back in 2012.

Saturday marks one year since Burton got in the race and she’s raised almost $79,000 in cash since entering. She’s kept most of it in the bank, spending less than $12,400 and relying on more than $3,500 of in-kind donations. In the year she’s been in the race, Burton has been getting some of Polk County’s leading Republicans behind her. Denise Grimsley, Kelli Stargel, Ben Albritton, Neil Combee, Mike LaRosa, McKeel and John Wood are all behind Burton and hosted a fundraiser for her in Tallahassee back in the fall.

But Burton got an opponent last month in trial attorney John Hugh Shannon who started off with a bang. Shannon hauled in more than $35,250 in less than three weeks in February and spent around $610. It’s an impressive start and Shannon is pretty well-known in Polk County. He runs billboards and commercials for his firm -- some of which stress his conservatism -- across the area. Shannon has also run commercials on public service and being a single dad.

Shannon’s folksy demeanor, service in the Marines and strong start to the money race make him a serious challenger for Burton no matter which Republican leaders are behind her. To her credit, Burton recognizes the threat Shannon represents. In February, she raised more than $15,000 as she tries to get a leg up in the money chase.

While Democrats run even with Republicans when it comes to registered voters here, it’s not exactly a strong area for them. McKeel skated to his final term in 2012 with no Democrat opposing him. It’s an unlikely pickup opportunity for Democrats no matter how fierce the primary between Burton and Shannon gets.

Still, there are opportunities for candidates outside the GOP here. Lillian Lima got 36 percent for her independent bid against McKeel in 2012. Franklin “Ed” Shoemaker will be looking to take advantage of that. Shoemaker is running as the candidate of the conservative America’s Party but he’s also running for the U.S. Senate in 2018. So far, Shoemaker has done nothing to raise money for the state House race but he’s been active in Tampa Bay and Polk County for some time on a number of fronts ranging from adoption to education.

Regardless of what happens in the general election, this is a race that will get more attention in the primary than the general. As spring starts, Burton and Shannon are both gearing up to launch serious bids for this open House seat.

Tallahassee based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

Comments (3)

4:11PM MAR 23RD 2014
There should be a John Morgan vanity tag. I agree.
9:54PM MAR 22ND 2014
The state legislature needs another personal injury lawyer, doesn't it.

Good grief.
2:06PM JUN 27TH 2014
Judging people based solely on their profession as opposed to their stances and ability is part of the reason that congress has such a low approval rating and yet a high re-election rate. Think before you speak (or vote) for once

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