Sean Shaw in Pole Position for Open Florida House Seat

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: February 20, 2014 3:55 AM
Shawn Shaw

Sean Shaw

Democrat Sean Shaw is increasing his advantage in the battle to pick up a Florida House seat in Hillsborough County currently held by the term-limited Betty Reed.

Shaw, an attorney best known for his time as Florida’s insurance consumer advocate and for being the son of former Chief Justice Leander Shaw, has emerged as the favorite for the open House seat.

Appointed by Alex Sink to serve as insurance consumer advocate back in 2008, Shaw left that post after the 2010 election. Since leaving Tallahassee, he has remained active on insurance issues, handling insurance cases for the Merlin Law Firm and leading Policyholders of Florida. In his role with Policyholders of Florida, he has been a critic of Republican-led efforts to reform Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-backed insurer of last resort.

Shaw has certainly impressed with his fundraising prowess. Since entering the race in January 2013 through the end of last month, Shaw has raised almost $134,150 and spent less than $38,550 through that period. Shaw has picked up the pace in recent months, bringing in around $21,650 in December and January.

Businessman and community activist Edwin Narain is Shaw’s chief primary rival but he simply hasn’t been able to keep pace. Narain entered the race in early April and he has an impressive background, serving on the Hillsborough County Headstart Policy Council board and the Hillsborough County Community Action board. Narain also served as student body president when he was an undergraduate at the University of South Florida. Narain is currently an area manager for AT&T.

Since entering the race back in April, Narain has raised more than $47,250, loaned his campaign $1,300 and spent less than $12,600, giving Shaw the edge in the often-expensive Tampa Bay market. Narain’s fundraising appears to have lost its steam in recent months. Narain raised more than $39,000 in the first six months of the campaign but brought in less than $3,500 in December and January.

Community activist Tatiana Denson is also running for the seat. Denson took on Reed in the 2012 Democratic primary. Reed spent more than $26,500 in the four-and-a-half months before the primary, while Denson spent just under $10,000. In the August primary, Reed utterly crushed Denson, winning 81 percent to 19 percent.

Undaunted by being buried in a landslide, Denson is back to run again, though her fundraising so far is nowhere close to what she was bringing in during her 2012 bid. Since entering the race in the middle of February, Denson has done little in the way of fundraising, bringing in around $640 and spending $587 by the end of January. She’s also relied on a loan of $1,000.

Businesswoman Sharon Carter, a longtime Democratic activist who rose to serve as vice chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, is also in the race but, like Denson, she’s far behind Shaw and Narain. Since getting in the race at the end of April, Carter has raised $3,140 and spent around $2,150.

This is one of the most heavily Democratic legislative seats in the state and whoever emerges with the nomination should be headed to Tallahassee. After routing Denson in the primary, Reed cruised in November with no opposition in the general election.

With his fundraising advantage, Shaw has a clear head start and, at this point, looks to be heading back to Tallahassee in 2015. Shaw’s edge grows by the day and Narain simply hasn’t been able to keep pace in the money chase and stumbled in recent months, giving his rival an even larger lead.

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

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