Saturday, January 20, 2018
Opinion

Henderson: Narain's future waits to be written

Former state Rep. Ed Narain lost to Darryl Rouson last August by 75 votes out of nearly 38,000 cast in the Democratic primary to represent District 19 in the Florida Senate.

Seventy. Five. Votes.

Considering the effort that goes into a campaign like that, coupled with the facts Narain is not a career politician and has a young and growing family, it would be understandable if he said he was finished with politics.

He hasn't said that though. My guess is he won't. He seems to have a genuine itch for public service and to make a difference. What he doesn't have is a decision.

"I'm not saying you will see me on a ballot in 2018," he said, "but I'm not saying I won't be. There have been a lot of people reach out to me about running, and I heard there is a poll being taken about the mayor's race where my name is on there with six or seven others.

"But I'll just say this for now – all options are on the table."

Lots of people are trying to help him explore those options.

"I'm not putting pressure on him, but I'd be delighted to see him on the ballot next year for the County Commission, the mayor's office, or even the state senate," Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chairwoman Ione Townsend said.

"Ed has great ideas. He is young. He's aggressive. He is progressive. He thinks we should be moving forward, not back. He has youth, energy, and he is sharp as a tack. He wants to continue to serve."

But where?

Family comes first and life in the public eye can throw that out of balance.

Being in the Legislature required that he travel to Tallahassee for 60 days during the session. His full-time employer was understanding — he is an area manager with AT&T — but there were other people he had to answer to.

"This year, my 5-year-old came up to me right around the time I would have been leaving for the session. She asked if I was going away to Tallahassee again. I told her no, not this year," Narain said.

"She said she was glad because she didn't like me being away for so long. Things like that make you think."

Maybe working a little closer to home would be more appealing. Five County Commission seats are up for grabs next year and Tampa will need a new mayor as incumbent Bob Buckhorn shuffles off to term-limit land.

Narain would be a formidable presence on the ballot if he decides the time is right. There is no guarantee that will happen.

While that plays out, he is working with Townsend and the local party to develop new candidates for future races. He knows the ropes in Tallahassee and the subtle ins and outs of campaigning. He knows how to communicate a message and make a point.

"Democrats have lost so often, they got used to losing. They were too quick to compromise on some things," he said.

"In a lot of ways, I think Republicans have co-opted the Democrats' message. They have policies that benefit the top 1 percent but managed to convince people those things are in their best interests, when they're not."

Father. Husband. Activist. Worker.

He also is in demand as a speaker. He serves on various boards. And this former student body president at the University of South Florida is working to raise scholarship money for the school.

It's a full plate. But 2018 is not that far away and he is in demand. What's it going to be?

"I'm going to be out in the community and listening to people," he said. "They will tell me what they believe my next move should be."

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