TALLAHASSEE — Political newcomer Ed Narain, an area retail manager for AT&T, won Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Florida House District 61 in Tampa.
Narain overtook three other candidates, including Sean Shaw, who had led in fundraising and had been endorsed by Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist.
“I’m just ecstatic; my team is ecstatic,” Narain said Tuesday night. “It was a hard-fought won. But I always said, this wasn’t about me, it was about the community, so I’m going to sit down and figure out how to best carry the torch and bring resources back to the district.”
The seat is being vacated by Democrat Betty Reed, a retired educator first elected in 2006 who faced term limits. She had endorsed Narain earlier this month.
Narain will face write-in candidate Nicole Santiago in November’s general election. But since no write-in has won legislative office in Florida, Narain almost certainly will take Reed’s place in the House of Representatives.
The heavily Democratic district includes East Tampa, Seminole Heights, West Tampa and Ybor City. No Republican filed to run for the seat.
Narain, who ran as the hometown candidate, is in charge of six retail AT&T stores and 70 employees in Pinellas County. He also attended law school at night at Stetson University, graduating last year, and plans to take the Bar exam next summer.
The others in the race were Sharon Carter, an energy consultant, Tatiana M. Denson, a health care consultant, and Shaw, a lawyer and former state insurance consumer advocate.
By the end of primary election fundraising last Thursday, Shaw had outpaced Narain by an almost 2-1 margin, taking in $224,217 to Narain’s $142,226.
The race got nasty between Narain and Shaw in the final weeks, with the other candidates pushed to the margins.
In emails and mailed political ads, Shaw’s campaign depicted Narain as the favored candidate of big business and pointed out the support he got from Republican-affiliated political committees.
As one Shaw mailer said: “There’s a reason Republicans support Ed: They know that he will sell our community out and side with them.”
Narain’s camp struck back, all but calling Shaw a carpetbagger. He grew up in Tallahassee, where his father – Leander J. Shaw, Jr. – was a state Supreme Court justice for 20 years. The elder Shaw retired in 2003 and still lives in Tallahassee.
Shaw also ran unsuccessfully for the Tallahassee-area legislative seat now held by Alan Williams, also a Democrat.
And Narain’s supporters highlighted Shaw’s support from lawyers and public adjusters, individuals licensed by the state to advocate for policyholders in insurance claims.
Florida’s 120 state representatives are paid $29,697 each per year, more for the House speaker, and serve two-year terms limited to a total of eight consecutive years.
Another area primary was cancelled after a judge disqualified the write-in candidate and ordered the election postponed till November.
Incumbent state Rep. Jamie Grant had been set to take on challenger Miriam Steinberg in the Republican primary for House District 64 in eastern Pinellas and northwest Hillsborough. The winner would have faced write-in Daniel Matthews.
But a Tallahassee judge last month disqualified Matthews, finding he didn’t live in the district when he qualified. Matthews is appealing.
Meantime, a universal primary, in which all district voters can cast a ballot regardless of party affiliation, will be held Nov. 4 between Grant and Steinberg.