TAMPA (970 WFLA) -- In a surprise announcement, a Hillsborough County teacher who set up her own Facebook page to promote a possible run for Congress, announced on Newsradio 970 WFLA that she'll try to run for the Florida Legislature instead.
Jessica Harrington describes herself as a progressive Democrat and member of the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus. She says she had been thinking about taking on Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis, but changed her mind after taking a trip to Tallahassee, dropping off some 250 letters to lawmakers about education funding.
"I realized that no one really knows me... nationally, but a lot of people know me locally," Harrington said.
On AM Tampa Bay, Harrington announced that she was changing course and running for state House district 64, which covers parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, centered on Westchase and Oldsmar. It's currently represented by Republican James "Jamie" Grant.
Harrington insists public schools aren't failing but they're inadequately funded and overcrowded, which she blames on funding cuts early in the administration of Governor Rick Scott. "If you fund (schools) properly, they'll be amazing," Harrington insists. "I'm the one working a second job... spending money out of my small paycheck to fund my classroom." Harrington says she's greatly offended by President Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos, refusing to say her name on the air.
Harrington started her teaching career at a charter school, and insists they have a place in the education system, but not at the cost of public schools. Harrington says she's also concerned about expanding Medicaid access in Florida, as well as the environment and jobs. "I understand there's a ton of problems with Obamacare, but (let's not) throw the baby out with the bath water."
Harrington says she won't "run away" from the issue of transgender bathrooms in schools, insisting that students who want to use a bathroom other than their birth gender "didn't just wake up feeling like a girl (or) boy" and decide to use a different bathroom. "People don't have any trouble waiting four hours to use the same porta-potty", Harrington insists. "I've never seen people go in the ladies' room and show their parts."
The House seat is up for a vote in 2018. Currently, there are 79 Republicans and 41 Democrats.