No more Mr. Nice Guy.
That was the message Bob Buesing conveyed to a crowd of Democrats with checkbooks in their pockets Tuesday night at his campaign kickoff event at Mise en Place in Tampa. The attorney and civic activist will need the financial support as he takes on Republican state Senator Dana Young for the second time in three years.
Some Democrats in Tallahassee and Hillsborough County thought they could end the Tampa Republican’s legislative career when they rallied behind Buesing, a first-time candidate, to challenge her in what was then a newly created Senate district.
But Young proved victorious, taking 48 percent of the vote to Buesing’s 41 percent. Independent Joe Redner received 9.5 percent.
Redner won’t be a factor this time around, announcing last year that he would sit this race out and back Buesing in this year’s rematch.
Although Redner is willing to rally behind Buesing, some members of Senate Democratic leadership weren’t convinced that he was the right candidate, believing that the urbane attorney might not have the fire in his belly to win against a Republican strongly backed by her party leadership.
Maybe that’s why Buesing was so aggressive during his first official campaign event.
“For Dana, her service in Tallahassee has been all about self-service. For me, it will be all about public service,” Buesing said about halfway through his 12-minute speech, which began with a strong denunciation of President Donald Trump.
Buesing blasted Young’s support for last year’s controversial omnibus education bill, HB 7069. That legislation included measures that forced school districts to share construction money with charter schools and created financial incentives for new charters to open and compete with low-performing public schools. It was pushed in the House by Speaker Richard Corcoran, who Buesing invoked several times as being Young’s “buddy.”
Referring to the fact that HB 7069 passed the Senate by just a single vote, Buesing said it was Young who made the deciding vote (of course that comment could be made about any Senator who voted for it), and joked that if he had been in the Senate, ” I would have pushed that ‘no’ button so hard I would have broken it.”
“Gutting public education is a disgrace and Dana, we are going to hold you accountable for that vote,” he promised.
Buesing also took verbal shots at Young for failing to support Medicaid expansion and claimed that his strong opposition to fracking during the 2016 campaign led her to craft her own bill opposing the controversial process, which has been condemned by environmentalists (Young maintained throughout the 2016 campaign that she had voted against fracking in the Legislature. PolitiFact Florida later ruled that statement “half-true”).
Demonstrating how he is ready to get more personal, Buesing also brought up an issue that he never talked about on the campaign trail in 2016 — Young’s personal wealth.
“Isn’t it interesting that in her first six years (in the Legislature) her net worth went from $452,000 to more than $4.7 million?” he asked, drawing some gasps in the crowded room. “That’s more than a tenfold increase. The average portfolio went up about twice. Something’s going wrong in Tallahassee.”
As he stated in 2016, Buesing says if elected, he will donate his legislative salary to the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.
Young is sixth-generation Floridian who was raised in Tallahassee. An attorney who represented clients in regulatory compliance, permitting, zoning, and administrative law proceedings, she made her first bid for political office in what is now considered House District 60 in 2010 when she defeated the late Stacey Frank in a highly partisan race. She easily won re-election in 2012 and 2014 with virtually no Democratic opposition, before she opted to run for the newly created Senate District 18 seat (created after redistricting) in 2016.
Contacted in Tallahassee where the Legislature is in the middle of its regular session, Young’s political team is opting to stay above the fray — for now.
“Senator Young is focused on doing her job for her constituents who elected her to serve over Mr. Buesing,” said Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for Young. “Right now is not the time for politics, but rather focusing on the needs of her community. There will come a time to address his comments, but right now she is focused on her job over political rhetoric.”
Young is a formidable fundraiser. She currently has more than $700,000 cash in hand in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, and another $192,000 in her regular campaign account.
Senate District 18 includes South Tampa, Westchase and Town ‘N Country.