Inexperienced and massively outspent, Democratic challenger Mark Danish pulled off an upset over incumbent State Rep. Shawn Harrison in District 63 Tuesday thanks to what his campaign called "old-fashion shoe leather."
Danish, a New Tampa resident and science teacher at Benito School, said he alone spoke with – either by knocking on doors or calling on the phone -- more than 6,000 people. His campaign workers spoke to many more, he said. The underdog candidate admitted his faith sometimes did waiver during the race.
“Once in a while (it did) but most of the time we felt like we were going to win it,” he said from his Arbor Green living room late Tuesday, surrounded by friends, family and campaign workers. “We looked at our numbers. I believed in our numbers crunchers.”
According to unofficial numbers from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office website, Harrison lost by .9 percent of the vote. Harrison could not be reached for comment.
The incumbent certainly seemed to have the edge going into the election. An attorney and owner of a business that does screening for long-term care homes, Harrison was elected to the Florida House two years ago and previously served on Tampa’s City Council. He also had been at one time a chairman of the Tampa Palms Community Development District.
Harrison picked up the endorsement of the both the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Tribune.
Danish said his win proves money isn’t everything.
“Total money raised, including the primary, we didn’t break $20,000," said the challenger, who was outspent by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Helpful to Danish was the recently redrawn district 63, making it more favorable to Democrats. Highly critical, too, was the share of union backing Danish earned, he said, including the Florida AFL-CIO, The Florida Education Association and the SEIU.
Son and campaign manger Michael Danish said he is proud of not only the win, but how his dad handled himself in the race.
"We made it a rule we would never go personal," he said.