HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — There was a big upset in the race for State House District 63 in Hillsborough County.
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Political newcomer Fentrice Driskell defeated Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison, garnering more than 53 percent of the vote.
Driskell, 39, said the 2016 election inspired her to run.
"I am so excited. I am exhilarated. I'm exhausted. This is the hardest thing I've ever done for sure," said Fentrice Driskell.
It may be the hardest thing, but she has accomplished a lot in her lifetime. She was Class President every year while attending Lake Gibson High School in north Lakeland. That’s where she acquired the desire to run for public office.
"I had a teacher who saw I really had a passion for it and he encouraged me to apply to a program known as Florida Girl State Progam," Driskell said. "While I was there, I was actually the student governor. I got to meet Lawton Chiles, sit in his chair, sign bills into law."
She went on to become the first black woman president of the student government at Harvard University. The Georgetown Law School graduate said although it looks bleak for Democrats in Florida, they should look on the bright side.
"I know it is a bitter sweet moment for the Democrats, but I would hope people focus on the positive story of the night which is that the Democrats picked up 10 seats in the Florida house," Driskell said.
Driskell’s district covers New Tampa, Carrollwood, Lutz and the University of South Florida. She said she can't wait to get to work in Tallahassee.
"Priority number one is going to be public education," she said. "Making sure that we push for higher per-pupil spending, making sure we're paying teachers what they're worth.
"You know, my mom taught public school for 35 years. I have the upmost respect for public school teachers," said Driskell.
While working in the legislature, Driskell said she plans to continue her law career with Carlton Fields law firm.
She advised other women looking to run for office to reach out to organizations like Emily's List or Ruth's List for training.