TAMPA — Attorney and former state insurance consumer advocate Sean Shaw narrowly won the State House District 61 Democratic primary Tuesday, giving him the seat outright since no Republicans filed to run for this safe Democratic seat.
Shaw, the son of the late Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw Jr., received nearly 43 percent of the vote. Businesswoman and activist Dianne "Ms. Dee" Hart came in second with 41 percent and environmental engineer and radio host Walter L. Smith was a distant third with 15 percent.
The seat covers much of Tampa's urban core including Ybor City, Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and East Tampa. It became open after Ed Narain opted to run for the state senate. Shaw failed in an earlier bid for the seat in 2014 losing to Narain in a contentious race.
"I'm elated," said Shaw, who celebrated his victory with campaign volunteers at the Fodder and Shine bar in Seminole Heights. "The people of District 61 bestowed on me the greatest honor possible: their confidence that I will go to Tallahassee and do exactly what I said I would do."
Those campaign pledges included pushing for Medicaid expansion, more spending on education and a higher minimum wage. He is also an opponent of the Tampa Bay Express highway expansion plan that includes demolition of homes alongside Interstate-275.
Shaw, who served as Florida's Insurance Consumer Advocate for two years ending in 2010, said his campaign's strong ground game may have made the difference in the narrow victory. Volunteers manned phone banks and knocked on thousands of doors, Shaw said.
He also proved a handy fundraiser bringing in about $107,000, more than his two opponents combined. Former Chief Financial Officer and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink was among his contributors.
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.