If the best endorsement is one you’d love but never have the nerve to ask for, then the latest from Shawn Harrison is a particular coup.
Brian Lamb, Fifth Third regional bank president, head of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees, immediate past president of the Tampa Bay Partnership and, not insignificantly, a Democrat, is supporting the New Tampa Republican’s re-election to the Florida House of Representatives.
Lamb became the second prominent black Democrat in recent days to declare his support for Harrison, joining Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick.
Lamb, a point guard on some very good Bulls basketball teams from 1994-98, buttonholed Harrison at a recent awards ceremony for USF alumni, telling his longtime friend, “Whatever I can do, Shawn.”
If Reddick’s endorsement was “seismic” — the incumbent’s term — Harrison is counting on Lamb’s voluntary aftershock to help him with the largest employer in District 63, a notoriously swingy puzzle piece stretching from Pebble Creek and across New Tampa to Lake Madeline and Carrollwood.
The particular challenges for Harrison in District 63, with an electorate that convulses depending on whether we’re electing a president, featured prominently in “Hot Air” editor Ed Morrissey’s “Going Red: The Two Million Voters Who Will Elect the Next President — and How Conservatives Can Win Them.”
Seeking his third win in four cycles — he was swept out in the 2012 Obama wave — Harrison figures the formula for hanging on in another presidential election year includes untraditional endorsements such as Reddick’s and Lamb’s that signal bipartisan appeal.
“I think [Lamb] will signal that USF is behind me,” Harrison said. “That’s a powerful thing, to have the leadership of the university on your side.”
In a release, Lamb credited Harrison as “an avid USF supporter and alumnus” who “understands firsthand” the university’s importance “to our local economy and our state’s education system,” citing his sponsorship of budget items “crucial to the continued funding of those vital services.”
“Beyond our university,” Lamb said, “Shawn is a dedicated public servant who always listens to his constituents and weighs each and every issue with the thought it deserves. We are well served by having him in the State House and I enthusiastically endorse him and believe his continued service in Tallahassee will serve our University and community well.”
Harrison, 51, faces Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, who became the Democratic Party’s nominee Friday when Equality Florida activist Mike Reedy dropped out.
Clearly, the game is afoot. As Harrison vowed Saturday, “I’m not done. We’re going to have more of these [endorsements] from high-powered Democrats.”