1. Florida Politics

State House, District 61

Published Aug. 14, 2014

State House | District 61

Four Democrats are vying for the District 61 state House seat opening created now that Rep. Betty Reed has reached her term limit. Candidates include a lawyer, an AT&T sales manager, a managed health care consultant and a construction project manager. They range from lifelong residents to a recent transplant. Two have previously run for office, one in this district and another in Tallahassee. Caitlin Johnston, Times staff writer

Sharon Carter, 49 Project management Tatiana Denson, 35 Managed health care consultant Ed Narain, 37 AT&T sales manager Sean Shaw, 36 Lawyer
Experience Carter, a construction project manager, is a lifelong Tampa resident and daughter of the Rev. Frank L. Carter, founding pastor of First Baptist Church of Highland Pines. Carter said education — primarily increasing science, technology, engineering and math options — would be her priority in the Legislature. She was vice chairwoman for the Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee and is a member of the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Tampa Bay Academy of Hope and other community organizations. Denson is the only candidate to previously run for office in this district. She is a lifelong resident of the district and has worked with insurance companies such as WellCare, Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Prior to this election, she worked on County Commissioner Les Miller's campaign, Betty Reed's 2008 campaign and the Moving Hillsborough Forward campaign to build a light-rail system. She addresses her criminal history — misdemeanor charges including petty theft, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana and reckless driving — on her website. Narain, an area manager for AT&T and former student body president at the University of South Florida, has earned endorsements from local leaders such as former County Commissioner Tom Scott, former Tampa City Council member Gwendolyn Miller, County Commissioner Les Miller and former Sen. James Hargrett. He is a member of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough County Headstart Policy Council Board. He has also coached and mentored children, volunteered with area groups and hosted community events. Shaw, son of retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw, ran for the Florida House in 2008 in Tallahassee before moving to Tampa in 2010. He has landed endorsements from former Gov. Charlie Crist, former state chief financial officer Alex Sink and state Reps. Janet Cruz and Mark Danish. In 2008, Shaw was appointed Florida's Insurance Consumer Advocate. He is a member of St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church and volunteers with Children With a Vision, Metropolitan Ministries and other organizations.
Education Carter received her bachelor of science degree from Florida State University in 1994. She graduated from Hillsborough High School in 1982. She is pursuing a degree in public administration from Barry University. She graduated from King High School in 2000. Narain received his law degree from Stetson University in 2013. He has a master's in business degree and a bachelor's degree from Saint Leo University. He graduated from South Plantation High School in 1994. Shaw received his law degree from the University of Florida Levin School of Law in 2003. He graduated from Princeton University in 2000 and Leon High School in 1996.
What would be your priority in the Legislature? Carter said education would be her priority because "It can solve a multitude of problems and we are moving towards a high-level change concerning education." She said it is necessary for citizens of District 61 "to become more competitive in math and science (STEM)," as that is where new jobs are expected to be and where citizens can find success. Denson is focused on establishing relationships with leadership in the House of Representatives and her fellow legislators in order to "protect the economic, social, and education interests of all Floridians." She hopes to serve on committees devoted to transportation and economic development, business and criminal justice. Narain said his "top priority will be working to reduce the unemployment numbers within my district." His goal is to help the long-term unemployed, veterans, young people and ex-offenders find meaningful employment by increasing funding for job training programs through local Community Development Corporations and schools. Shaw's priorities would be jobs, education and health care. He does not support the expansion of the voucher program or recent changes to public schools and teaching standards. "We need a long-term approach to education that includes input from teachers, administrators and other experts so that we aren't switching standards each year."
What are your priorities for investing? Carter called transportation a major priority and said it is imperative to focus on new methods. She referenced numerous studies that "reveal that it may be more economically sound to support mass transportation versus massive expansions of roads," and said voters will have another chance to vote for a tax referendum for public transportation. She said she is hesitant to raise taxes without a great need. Denson believes transportation is a major local issue. She supports legislation that "prohibits federal or state funds to be rejected when it has opportunities of economic gain." She supports raising money through future road projects through tolls, an increased gas tax or other means. "Ultimately, a functioning and effective transportation system is vital for increasing economic development." Narain has seen the negative impact of expanded roads and highways and believes "we will only be able to build so many roads before new methods of transportation will be needed." He supports light rail, but said, "We have an existing HARTline system that we need to ensure is efficiently expanded to support transportation needs before investing any money into the project." Shaw says investing in transportation infrastructure is "vital to our economic future." He would like to see bus routes and times expanded. He said, "Turning down federal money to build a light-rail system was a huge mistake," and he would support paying for transportation improvements with taxes or tolls "only if absolutely necessary and there was not sufficient money in the trust fund."
Assets Homes Household items Home, rental property, retirement funds Townhouse, car, bank accounts, retirement funds
Liabilities None Mortgage Mortgage, student loans Mortgage, car loan, equity loan
Income $13, 455 $16,320 $100,387 $135,277
Personal Single, one child Single, two children Married, two children Married

Project management

Managed health care consultant

AT&T sales manager


About the job: State House District 61 includes parts of central, east and north Tampa. Representatives serve two-year terms and earn $29,697 a year.