TAMPA — Republican Shawn Harrison on Tuesday was re-elected to state House District 63, bucking the trend of a seat that in recent years has swung Democrat during presidential year elections.
He narrowly beat Democratic opponent Lisa Montelione, who resigned her position on the Tampa City Council to run for the New Tampa-university area seat.
Harrison celebrated his victory with about 75 supporters at a jubilant election watch party at his home in New Tampa. The 51-year-old attorney first won the seat in 2010 but lost it to Mark Danish two years later. He won the seat back in 2014.
That experience was vital in finally winning re-election, he said.
"We understand the district very well," he said. "We had a specific plan to reach out to Democrats and we executed it very well."
Harrison's campaign was boosted by support from the Republican Party of Florida, which paid for mailers attacking his opponent's vote on the Tampa City Council supporting free parking for city council members and her support of a new city stormwater assessment.
He also secured endorsements from some notable Democrats including Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick.
The result was a setback for the Florida Democratic Party, which had targeted the seat as one it could win to reduce the Republicans' majority in the Florida House.
It helped Montelione get the endorsement of President Barack Obama, who recorded a telephone message of support for her.
Her campaign hit Harrison with claims that he has voted in support of fracking in Florida and accepted donations from fracking companies hoping to operate in the state.
A disappointed Montelione said she will take a brief break and then return to working in the private sector. She worked in both banking and construction before her election to Tampa City Council in 2011.
"We did everything a campaign could possibly do to send the message we need new leadership in Tallahassee to stand for the values of working class Floridians," she said.
Harrison said he will use his new term in office to continue to seek bipartisan support for initiatives to help his Florida residents.
"I will continue to focus on health care, small business creation, opportunities for entrepreneurs and protection of our seniors," he said.
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.