Lisa Montelione said it was “excruciatingly hard” to decide to give up her Tampa City Council seat next year, but that’s what will happen now that she’s decided to run for the Florida Legislature in 2016. She’ll take on fellow Democrat Mike Reedy in the House District 63 primary next August, with the winner to face GOP incumbent Shawn Harrison in November.
Regarding that primary race against Reedy, Montelione said simply, “I will win.”
The Hillsborough County-based seat is one of those handful of state House districts that favor the Democrats in presidential election years, and Republicans in off-year elections. Harrison defeated Democrat Mark Danish in a rematch of their 2012 contest, in which Danish won out.
Montelione said she considered whether to jettison her Council seat for months, but it took watching a “TED Talk” by philosopher Ruth Chang that finally persuaded her.
“It doesn’t come down to a plus or minus column, it comes down to where you feel your heart is, and having the courage to maybe not do the practical thing that everybody expects, but to do the hard thing that means it might cost you a lot but in the end it’s the right the thing to do,” Montelione said of deciding to leave her seat and run for the Legislature.
Reedy, a Tampa native and full-time organizer for the LGBT activist group Equality Florida, said he was surprised when he learned of Montelione entering the Democratic primary.
“I don’t know what her thinking is, quite frankly, as someone who was just elected for City Council in March,” he said. Montelione was re-elected to a second four-year term this year. Both Democrats said that they’re aware the seat has flipped back and forth in recent years, but both said that should they win, they’ll keep it blue for years to come.
Noting how much of her current council seat mirrors the geography of HD 63 and how people in unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County have grown to know her because of her work on the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Hillsborough River Board, Montelione said it’s a seat “I know that in ’16 I will win, and I know in ’18 I’ll hold onto it, because I have crossed the aisles in popularity, people from both sides of the aisle support me.”
Reedy said he considers himself in the first year of a “10-year campaign.”
He means he’ll be active with the community from the beginning of his first term in office. “There is someone who is always going to be running the two years that you’re trying to make it, so as soon as we win in November, we’re going to continue that outreach to the community, and I think that’s something that this community has definitely said what they want to know more of,” adding that “there is a lack of knowing who their elected officials are, and what they are doing and how they are voting not only in the city but also in Tallahassee.”
The race will divide Democrats to an extent.
Among those who attended an earlier fundraiser for Reedy included Pat Frank, Mike Suarez, Mary Mulhern, Patrick Manteiga, Guido Maniscalco, and Mark Danish.
Reedy said that among the issues he’s concerned about being debated in Tallahassee is the guns on campus bill and the problems with the Department of Children and Families.
“We have a lot of tenured professors and students who live in the district, and they’re voicing their concerns about what in a situation which someone with a hoodie with a gun, and then there’s another person with a hoodie and a gun that fits the only description, how is the cop going to know who’s the good guy and the bad guy?
“That’s a real concern for students … and statistically, our schools are safer than our communities, and our communities have been safer now than they have been in the last 30 years so that’s a big concern to me and people in this district.
“I think also we’ve seen a lot in terms of DCF … and what’s happening with some children who are falling through the cracks, if you want to say something that is happening that’s not getting enough coverage, it is that and we have to find a way … that connects not only our social services with our medical community but with law enforcement, there cannot be this disconnect, because there is too many children who are falling through the cracks.”
Montelione has nearly a year to go on City Council, and said there’s plenty of work to still do. She was on the losing side of a recent vote that would have committed taxpayers to spending over $250 million for much needed improvements to the city’s aging stormwater system. She said it wasn’t just herself, Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen who were on the losing side of that council vote, but the residents of Tampa and unincorporated Hillsborough County as well.
After the council’s initial vote rejecting the proposal by the Bob Buckhorn administration, Montelione offered a motion to bring the issue back in January, but that died without getting a second vote.
“I hope that it’s coming back, but the members of council who voted against it are the only ones who can bring it back,” she said. “The only other alternative is for the (Buckhorn) administration to come up with a plan that is marginally different from the one proposed so they can bring it back and hope for a different impact.”