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Janet Cruz and Dana Young, SD 18

Tampa Bay

Dana Young challenges Janet Cruz to two debates

Voters in Hillsborough County’s Senate District 18 may get to see debates between the two women looking to represent them in the Florida Senate for the next four years.

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young said Wednesday she is challenging her opponent, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, to a pair of debates. Young and Cruz are the only candidates vying for SD 18. They will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

“With critical matters facing our local community and the State of Florida, it’s important for voters to know our respective positions and stances before General Election Day in November,” Young said. “That’s why I believe it is imperative that my opponent and I sit down together and discuss our positions in an open forum, so voters can learn what we’re all about and where we stand come Election Day.

“With so much misinformation out there, I am really looking forward to these debates and the opportunity to wade through all the clutter and show voters where I really stand on the issues,” Young concluded.

A news release from Young’s campaign said the first of the proposed debates would be held in September at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club and the second debate would be held in October at the University of Tampa. The campaign said more concrete details would be announced at a later date.

At first it was unclear whether Cruz, who entered the race in April, had agreed to the debates. Later on Wednesday afternoon, however, campaign spokesperson Kevin Cate sent out a statement responding to Young’s press release.

“Dana Young, most famous for hiding during the assault weapons ban vote and not speaking out against immigrant children being taken from their parents, is now pretending she is a debate organizer — unbeknownst to anyone else,” he said. “This press release is especially odd given her three rejections of Tiger Bay debates last cycle. I guess being down in the polls has a way of making politicians act funny. We’ll reach out to these organizations and see what’s up. We are eager to debate expanding access to affordable care, more funding for schools, and common sense gun reform.”

Young was elected to the Senate in 2016 after taking 48 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democratic nominee Bob Buesing and a pair of third-party candidates. This cycle, the northwestern Hillsborough district is a top target for Florida Democrats.

SD 18 is one of two districts on FDP’s wish list that was carried by Hillary Clinton two years ago, and a recent poll shows a tight race between Young and Cruz, with Cruz holding a slim advantage.

As of July 6, Young had more than $316,000 banked in her campaign account. Her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, had another $1.06 million at the ready on July 13. Through the same dates, Cruz had $144,000 in hard money and another $244,000 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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