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Shawn Harrison looking for rematch with state Rep. Mark Danish

TAMPA — The last time Shawn Harrison and state Rep. Mark Danish ran against each other was nearly seven months ago.

Harrison, a Republican, was the incumbent, with good name recognition and strong fundraising. But Danish, a middle school science teacher, rode a big Democratic wave and won by 1 percentage point.

Now Harrison has filed papers to run again in state House District 63. If he gets his rematch, the election would take place 17 months from now, and both men would expect the contest to be different.

"He's an incumbent, and the district is a Democratic district by a fairly comfortable majority," Harrison said. "I'm definitely going to be the underdog here, and that will be an interesting role reversal, I think, for both of us."

Last November, Harrison out-raised Danish 15-to-1: $299,000 to $19,500.

This time around, it's too soon to say what that ratio will be, but it probably won't be as lopsided. In the two weeks before this year's legislative session, Danish raised a little more than $10,000. That's not a lot, but it puts him on a better pace than last year. And he said it's a reasonable showing considering that he was splitting his time between the classroom and committee meetings.

Harrison, who said it's too early to have raised any money, also expects a different kind of election. After last year's race, political observers said Danish almost certainly got a boost, and maybe a decisive one, from President Barack Obama's data-driven and highly organized get-out-the-vote operation.

In 2014, Harrison said, "There's no president at the top of the ticket. This an election that will be much more about the individual races rather than which national party can motivate the most voters to get to the polls. … Without those sorts of influences, I think you have a different electorate coming out."

District 63 covers parts of New Tampa, Pebble Creek, Lutz, Carrollwood and the areas around Lake Magdalene and the University of South Florida. Forty percent of its voters are Democrats, 33 percent are Republicans, and 24 percent have no party affiliation.

But last year, Harrison won more precincts and a bigger share of the vote than did GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, with strong showings in Carrollwood, Lake Magdalene and Lutz.

Harrison, 48, is a health care lawyer and former Tampa City Council member. He said he feels he has "unfinished business" in Tallahassee. During his term in the House, he sponsored Amendment 9, which provides targeted tax relief for spouses of military veterans killed in action.

"I think people will want a choice," Harrison said. He expects voters will value his experience as a lawyer, in city government and in entrepreneurship. "I think that sort of voice in Tallahassee is always welcome."

Danish, 59, teaches seventh-grade science at Benito Middle School and said he would be ready for another campaign against Harrison.

"I'm going to be very happy to compare Shawn's voting record with my record," Danish said.

During his first session, Danish said he was proud to support the bill that creates two new diploma designations, including one for students taking industry-certification courses.

"That was one of my big objectives and that one was accomplished," he said.

As important, Danish said, was opposing bills that failed. One would have banned new state employees, teachers and county workers from enrolling in the Florida Retirement System, steering them instead to private investment plans. The other was the so-called "parent trigger" bill, which would have allowed parents to demand sweeping changes in failing public schools, including their conversion into charter schools.

And, yes, Danish acknowledges, it helped to be on the ballot with the president's re-election campaign, but he feels he has established himself with voters.

"People know who I am now," he said. "Before I was kind of the new person. … If you look at the dynamics of the district, now that I'm more well-known, I feel that on my own I'll do just fine."

Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Shawn Harrison looking for rematch with state Rep. Mark Danish 05/28/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 12:14am]
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