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Harrison backs Harrison in District 7 Tampa City Council race

Published Sep. 23, 2016

S tate Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, is getting involved in a Tampa City Council race even while he's fighting his own re-election battle.

He is backing Avis Harrison — no relation — a retired teacher and friend in the six-candidate special election to replace Lisa Montelione in District 7. Montelione has resigned to run against Shawn Harrison for his District 63 House seat.

His Committee for an Innovative Florida gave no-party-affiliate Avis Harrison $1,000, her biggest contribution other than her own $3,588. He also co-hosted a fundraiser held for her by former Bucs coach Jon Gruden on Sept. 8 — though he didn't attend — and says he encouraged her to run.

Her connection to Gruden, by the way, is through Corbett Preparatory School, which their children attended, she said.

It's an old campaign axiom not to get involved in somebody else's fight when you're in one of your own, and Shawn Harrison, in a swing district that goes Democratic in presidential years, faces a tough challenge from Montelione. Why is he breaking that rule?

The council and House districts overlap in the New Tampa and university areas. Some insiders speculate that publicity about either Harrison will help both.

Others note that Avis Harrison's campaign emphasizes New Tampa's gripes about lack of attention from City Hall —"Fighting for New Tampa's Fair Share" is the motto on her website. That's not helpful for Montelione, who represents the area now.

Shawn Harrison laughed off the speculation and said the reason is simply that Avis Harrison and her late husband were "people we've known and respected for some time."

Reddick gives to both black candidates

Frank Reddick, an outspoken civil rights advocate and the only black Tampa City Council member, has contributed $200 each to both of the black candidates in the council District 7 race — Harrison and retired Tampa police sergeant Orlando Gudes.

Big gets for Hillsborough GOP

The Hillsborough Republican Party got big names to highlight its Oct. 15 fundraising Victory Dinner: Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP presidential running mate Mike Pence. It's $250 for the "grass roots ticket," $1,500 for the VIP reception and $50,000 for a "gold table" sponsor. Expect a sellout.

Why party money to Vazquez?

Why, Patrick Manteiga wants to know, did the Hillsborough County Democratic Party give $2,500 to Jose Vazquez, the Democrat running against Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City?

Manteiga, the publisher of La Gaceta and a Democratic activist, noted in a recent column that the contribution is more than Vazquez has managed to raise on his own. His total as of Sept. 16, including the party money, was $3,555, plus a $1,080 loan from himself.

Raulerson, former Plant City mayor and two-term incumbent, looks formidable in the GOP-leaning district and Vazquez may not be the best possible challenger. He served time in 2007-09 for a felony driving offense.

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So why give him scarce party money?

"One reason is to help keep the vote coming out in that House district — remember we've got countywide races," said party executive director Mark Hanisee.

Maybe also to help keep Hispanics in the tent?

Hanisee said the party has given local candidates $42,000 so far, with most legislative candidates getting $5,000 and county commission candidate Pat Kemp, the top priority, getting $10,000.

Vazquez, who had his civil rights restored, denied his campaign is hopeless. He noted that he got 43 percent of the vote against Raulerson in 2012.

Environmentalists hit Young again

The Florida Conservation Voters and liberal group Florida Strong, capitalizing on publicity over the Mosaic sinkhole spill, are hitting Rep. Dana Young, a candidate in the District 18 state Senate race, for getting contributions from the phosphate industry.

Noting that Young has received at least $28,250 since 2010 from phosphate companies, and that Mosaic executive Eileen Stuart co-hosted a fundraiser for Young in December, the group accused Young of staying "silent on their toxic spill" and said her "environmental record is as dirty as her campaign contributions."

Jonathan Webber, the group's executive director, singled out Young's vote in favor of a bill in this year's legislative session regulating fracking.

The bill would have set a moratorium on fracking while the Department of Environmental Protection studied the issue, but it also would have prevented local governments from enacting their own regulations, and allowed companies not to disclose chemicals used in fracking water.

Environmentalists opposed it, but Republicans said it was an improvement on the current lack of statewide regulations.

Young called the charges "absurd" and said she is categorically opposed to fracking in Florida — "I always have been and always will be." Some local governments, she said, would be happy to allow it because of the revenues.

She noted the group endorsed her Democratic opponent, Bob Buesing, without talking to her, and called the charges "a bunch of garbage. It's just a political stunt … trying to capitalize on an environmental crisis."

When publicity was peaking over the algae bloom caused by Lake Okeechobee discharges, the groups blasted Young over contributions from the sugar industry.

D60 internal poll

An internal Democratic Party poll on the House District 60 race, done before the primary, didn't match Democrat David Singer against Jackie Toledo, who won the Republican primary. The Dems expected Rebecca Smith to win.

But the name-recognition figures are 12 percent for Singer and 35 percent for Toledo, and the generic ballot test showed a 1-point lead for a Republican, 44 to 43 percent.

Top ballot numbers, however, look good for a Democrat.

The South Tampa-based district has gone Republican in the two presidential and governor races, but Donald Trump isn't popular there — Hillary Clinton led by 12 points, much better than her statewide performance.

Contact William March at


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