State House District 63 candidate Fentrice Driskell is hoping to return incumbent Shawn Harrison’s seat to Democratic hands in the General Election on Tuesday, November 6.

There was never any doubt, at least in her mind, that Fentrice Driskell was going to one day run for office.

It was just a matter of when.

Well, when…is now.

In February, Driskell filed to run for the Florida House District 63 seat currently held by Republican and long-time New Tampa resident Shawn Harrison.

District 63 includes New Tampa, as well as Carrollwood, Lutz and the Lake Magdalene and University of South Florida areas to our south and east.

Driskell’s entry into the race was greeted with great enthusiasm by many Democrats, who consider it one of the most flippable State House seats.

Shawn Harrison

Harrison won the seat in 2010, lost it to Mark Danish in 2012, then reclaimed it in 2014. In 2016, Harrison held off Democratic challenger and fellow former Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione by 1,363 votes, or 51-49 percent.

“I’ve known for quite some time I would like to run one day,” Driskell says. “I thought it would be later in life, though. But, the 2016 election motivated me.”

Driskell was almost immediately endorsed by prominent local Democrats like Betty Castor, Alex Sink, Pat Kemp and State House Democratic Leader, State Rep. Janet Cruz, after throwing her hat in the ring.

Driskell felt that women’s voices were missing from the political debate, and felt like public schools, where her mother taught for 35 years, were under attack. She saw a political landscape dominated by acrimony and inertia, instead of focusing on providing affordable housing, a safe and clean environment and economic policies that would benefit everyone.

“After the 2016 election, I really decided that if I don’t like the way things are going, I can either keep talking about it or do something about it,” Driskell says. “I started attending candidate trainings and really thinking about some of the issues I care about the most.”

Driskell said her passion for government was ignited while she attended Lake Gibson High in Lakeland.

During her junior year, she attended Florida Girls State, a week-long workshop that focuses on government, politics and Americanism.

“It completely changed my trajectory,” Driskell says.

She graduated from Lake Gibson No. 1 in her class and attended Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, where she was the school’s first African-American female student body government president.

She graduated from Harvard and then Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C., and has been president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association for black lawyers in Tampa. She is currently a partner and business litigator at the Carlton Fields law firm near Tampa International Airport.

When she decided to run and looked at the open races, she saw District 63 as a perfect place to bring what she says will be an inclusive style of representation.

“I looked at the level of representation that District 63 is getting and felt I had something better to offer,” Driskell says.

According to the Lakeland native, District 63 is roughly 38 percent registered Democrats, 32 percent Republicans and 30 percent unaffiliated.

“When you have a district that balanced, you have to be able to lead from a place that is reflective of that and inclusive of everyone,” Driskell says. “My opponent has moved too far to the right for this district.”

Driskell (see ad on pg. 6) has attended a few New Tampa town halls, and organized some meet-and-greets in local communities, most recently in Arbor Greene, and hopes to strike a chord with local voters, who trended Democratic in 2016.

“We’ve been able to build a lot of great momentum and enthusiasm around our campaign,” Driskell says. “What we’ve found is that people want to talk about the kind of bread-and-butter issues that affect us every day, like schools, gun safety, keeping kids safe. Because we have been able to engage them directly, people are excited to have the opportunity to have a representative who will listen to them.”

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