Shaw, according to his own admission, has always harbored an interest in politics. That’s probably not surprising when you consider his pedigree. His father happens to be former Florida Supreme Court Justice, Leander J. Shaw Jr. Naturally, interpreting what a sausage should be is different than making a sausage. Shaw wanted to be involved in the sausage making process as a legislator. He is a Tallahassee, Florida native, who eventually went to law school at the University of Florida, after finishing his undergrad education at Princeton University. Arriving back in Tallahassee as an attorney, he put out his shingle and began practicing law. In 2008 he was appointed by Alex Sink, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer at the time, to be the insurance consumer advocate of Florida. Shaw resigned his post, two years later to work on Alex Sink’s campaign for governor’s office of Florida. This juncture in his career brought him to Tampa in 2010. He resided in Tampa and is now a Florida legislator representing Hillsborough County’s House District 61, which encompasses Ybor City, Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and East Tampa
The Lyfe Magazine Interview
The Lyfe Magazine discussed with Rep. Sean Shaw a variety of issues concerning his district, the state legislature, and if progressive grassroots organizations are making a difference in the today’s political landscape.
Lyfe: Can you address some of the challenges you face serving a community that doesn’t see you as often as, maybe local public servants?
Shaw: “I’m going to do some Facebook live sessions from Tallahassee when I’m up there; and, I’ll promote those on my social media. I’m going to come back as often as I can. Of course, I can’t be here during the week because I’ll be in Tallahassee, but, I will be back on the weekends; try to visit some churches when I’m in town. To do what I can do to be as active as I can when I can. When session is over, then of course, I’ll be back in Tampa full-time and be able to resume the kind of being around at events more often. But certainly when I am in Tampa, I try to go to as much stuff and be as active and seen as I can. It’s more than just going to events to go to events. I do it so I can see my constituents and they can see me. (Then) we can talk about issues; and we can talk about their concerns; and can tell them what’s going on in Tallahassee and those sort of things.”
Lyfe: Some might say the grassroots-progressive wing of the Democratic Party is moving faster than the elected officials. What’s your take?
Shaw: “I think, we are in the middle of it right now. I think it is happening as we speak. I was so pumped and excited to see the Women’s Marches in D.C.; around the world, to be honest. And how many people participated. It was amazing to see that. I am so encouraged that our democracy reacted to, what I thought, was as a very disappointing result. But I am glad to see how we have reacted on our side of the aisle. We kind of harnessed some of that anger into action. We need to maintain it and direct it….As a politician, I like to be pushed by the grassroots. I tell people this all the time when I am out in the community. I expect you to hold me to a standard that I am going to do what I said I would do when I was running. That I represent your concerns. That’s what we should aspire to; that’s what we should do as politicians. That’s what we promised when we run; and that’s what we owe to our constituents. I like it. I expect it. I enjoy it.”
Lyfe: Isn’t it true that you need legislation as much as you need activism to push the political narrative?
Shaw: “There’s activism, then there is governance, then there is campaigning. They are all three different. We need people at each of those areas. As politicians I think, particularly on the Democratic side…nationally, we need to do better job listening to these grassroots.”
Lyfe: What does that mean for a rebranding of the Democratic Party?
Shaw: “We as The Democratic Party need to do a better job incorporating some of that energy (progressive grassroots) in our platform; into our message. What does it mean to be a Democrat? Why is the Democratic Party better for you economically; morally; national security wise. All of that. We need to make our case to the people, that we are a better party, and that life will be better if Democrats are in charge….We need to embrace the fact that the country always does better economically when the Democrats are in charge.”
Lyfe: What are some issues the Black Caucus is focusing on?
Shaw: “We face problems that are specialized and systemic in a lot of ways. Our various communities may be dispersed across the state, but a lot of times we are facing the same problems. Whether that is the criminal justice system; whether that is interactions with law enforcement; whether that is unemployment; whether that is economic and development in our urban core. In our districts a lot of us have similar problems and we need to make sure, as a group, that we’re banded together to address those issues.”
Lyfe: What are you focusing on in the coming session?
Shaw: “The way that juveniles are charged as adults in this state, is something that needs some reform. We need some safeguards. We need to make sure that process is a little more fair. We need to make sure there are alternatives to a juvenile getting a record for anything they do. There are civil citation programs. There is the ability to go to more teen court, drug court. Those types of things as kind of alternatives. We need to make sure those are being utilized to the extent we are not ruining peoples for one mistake.”
Lyfe: What are some things that keeps you up at night?
Shaw: “It’s lie after lie after lie. We’ve gotten to the point that we’re starting to normalize lie from the president’s office. It just very concerning. We’re trying to shut down the media and declare war on the media. And apparently, the president (Trump) believes if you say something enough times it makes it the truth. We are in very dangerous times. And it is even more important that; one, the media stay vigilant; and two, that we, the loyal opposition stay vigilant.