Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione announced Tuesday she'll be running for the Florida House District 63 seat, which Rep. Shawn Harrison currently occupies, to tackle transit issues and increase diversity in the male-dominated legislature.
Montelione, elected to Council's Dist. 7 seat in 2011, would face Harrison, the incumbent, in the general, but she first has to clear a primary against Mike Reedy, who filed in January and has also been visible on the Hillsborough political scene.
She said she is running to help fight the notoriously hostile and unproductive climate at the state capitol.
“When I looked at what was being accomplished, as I did in 2011 when I decided to get in [to the City Council race], and I looked at what's being accomplished in the legislature now, I see that I can...really make a difference," she said. "I look at Tallahassee and how dysfunctional it is, and how you have people who can't seem to get along or work across the aisle and put their differences aside for the betterment of the citizens.”
She said constituents — even ones who live outside her north Tampa district — encouraged her to run.
“I put a lot of thought behind where I would best serve the citizens I currently serve," she said. "And even though the House seat is more than just the City of Tampa and not unincorporated Hillsborough, I served those folks on the MPO and I served them on the River Board and I served them on the Affordable Housing Advisory Board. So I've been serving the citizens of unincorporated Hillsborough for a while.”
But the nudging didn't just come from those she serves as a council member and a member of multiple countywide boards. She said Ruth's List Florida had encouraged her to step into the race. The nonprofit aims to get a higher proportion of women elected to public office, something Montelione would also like to see.
As for issues, she said, transit is number one.
“I've spent five years on five different — at one point, six different — transportation boards," she said. "It's something that affects every single day of every single person's life. We can't get to work or school or participate in events or recreation. We can't move goods in and out of our city or in and out of the region. Children who are entering school, that's their first entry into the transportation system.”
In order to run, state election rules require Montelione to give up her council seat next year, whether or not she wins.
If she wins the August primary against Reedy, the 2016 general election won't be her first time going up against an incumbent. Former Councilman Joseph Caetano had occupied the Dist. 7 seat, but didn't clear the primary. Montelione won against Charlie Perkins in the March, 2011 runoff.