April Griffin beats back Dipa Shah, while Sally Harris stuns everyone in Hillsborough School board races

April Griffin — the occasionally combative, frequently controversial Hillsborough County School Board member opposed in her bid for a third term this year by a raft of contenders as well as her bête noire, superintendent MaryEllen Elia — is enjoying the last laugh tonight, as she easily cruised to re-election against Valrico attorney Dipa Shah.

With 340 out of 347 precincts reporting, Griffin is enjoying a stunning 65-35 percent victory over Shah, an affirmative embrace of her activist-oriented approach to her job.

Griffin originally never intended to run for a third term. She instead was going to move on up the political ladder and run for the countywide County Commission District 7 seat being vacated by Mark Sharpe (and apparently won tonight by Al Higginbotham). But Griffin dropped out of that race a year ago, and then surprised a lot of people — including the many candidates who had entered the race thinking she was out — earlier this year.

Although she didn't win the endorsements of the major papers in the primary (the Times went with Temple Terrace City Councilwoman Allison McGillivray Fernandez, who told CL yesterday that she will run again in 2016), Griffin survived the August election against 8 candidates, making it into the runoff against Shah, who was criticized by some observers as being too fuzzy on the issues.

Although it's often reported that Griffin has been at odds with Elia, so have board members Susan Valdes and Cindy Stuart as well. But even with Griffin's re-election, Elia will have the majority of members in her corner.

Or will she? Melissa Snively has mostly been neutral about Elia, as has Sally Harris.

That's right — Sally Harris, and not Michelle Shimberg, will be the District 2 School Board representative, in one of the biggest upsets in recent Hillsborough County history.

No one (certainly not this reporter) gave Harris a chance against Shimberg, who was endorsed by every public official in Tampa/Hillsborough County. The final tally wasn't that close, with Harris winning, 53-47 percent.

Snively defeated Christian conservative activist Terry Kemple in the eastern Hillsborough County District 4 contest, 54-46 percent.

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