EAST TAMPA - A crowded field is taking shape in the 2014 District 61 race to replace State Rep. Betty Reed, who is term-limited after serving four terms in the House.
Four candidates have filed for the seat in a heavily Democratic district that includes Seminole Heights, East Tampa, Ybor City and West Tampa. They are Sharon Carter, Tatiana M. Denson, Edwin Narain and Sean Shaw.
Carter, Narain and Shaw were invited to speak Tuesday at a monthly meeting of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership but only Narain was able to attend. Denson addressed the group at a prior meeting.
Carter and Shaw are expected to attend an August meeting.
The partnership is not endorsing any candidates, said president Rev. Essie Sims. "We're going to bring out all the candidates," he said. "We just want residents to be aware of who is running."
About 30 people attended Tuesday's meeting.
Narain is an area manager for AT&T. He serves on the board of the Hillsborough County Head Start Policy Council and formerly was a member of the Hillsborough Community Action Board. He is earning a law degree from Stetson University. As an undergraduate, he was student body president at the University of South Florida.
Jobs, Medicaid and education are issues Narain said he wants to tackle as a state legislator.
He faulted Gov. Rick Scott for not accepting federal money to expand the Medicaid program. "That is our money," Narain said. "It's shameful we don't expand Medicaid and Obamacare right here in Florida."
He also opposes a so-called "parent trigger" bill that has been proposed, so far unsuccessfully. It would give parents with children at failing schools a greater say in policy including changing them into charter schools. "That's not parent empowerment," Narain said. "It's a corporate take-over. I'm not anti-charter schools but I think we have a system we need to strengthen before we try a new system."
Among the current slate of candidates, only Shaw and Denson have reported campaign donations.
Records show Denson collected $25 as of March 31. Shaw in contrast has an impressive campaign chest of nearly $30,000. He has spent about $3,400. Narain said he planned to report donations within the next few days.
Shaw is the son of retired State Supreme Court Chief Justice Leander Shaw, Jr. He previously ran and lost in 2008 in a crowded Democratic primary race for District 8 in Tallahassee.
That same year he was appointed by then-state Chief Finance Officer Alex Sink to serve as State Insurance Consumer Advocate. He left that office two years later and is now an attorney with the Merlin Law Group.
Carter is the former vice-chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee.
Denson was a political newcomer when she took on Reed in the 2012 election and lost. She has served on the board of the East Tampa partnership.