No surprise here: Jeff Brandes trounces Lindsay Cross - Florida Politics

No surprise here: Jeff Brandes trounces Lindsay Cross

Florida Senator Jeff Brandes will keep his Senate District 24 seat representing parts of St. Petersburg.

Brandes stomped his Democratic challenger, Lindsay Cross, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Cross was an underdog candidate in a difficult matchup against a well-known incumbent. She fought a hard battle right up until Election Day, but couldn’t bridge the gap created from her late entrance into the race and inability to keep up with Brandes’ campaign finance war chest.

Brandes is a popular politician in Florida respected across party lines. He gained respect from many Democrats after supporting legalizing medical cannabis and pushing for relaxed regulation over the industry once voters approved it.

He’s also made a name for himself pushing for more access to autonomous vehicle technology and other innovative solutions to modern day problems. Brandes is a bill-sponsoring machine in Tallahassee, proposing often bipartisan legislation ranging from allowing students to use computer coding as a language requirement to regulating “delivery robots” to serve as a sort of Uber of commerce.

Cross waged a strong grassroots campaign. She managed to stretch her limited funding by using creative marketing strategies. Rather than buying up expensive television ads (she did have some), Cross focused on alternative sources to reach voters like Hulu, Netflix and Pandora.

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She also used social media as a strong outreach tool. In the final two weeks of her campaign, Cross began posting daily videos on Facebook highlighting issues in her race.

While not overtly negative, Cross attempted to beat Brandes on local issues. An environmental scientist by trade, one of Cross’s biggest appeals to voters was her commitment to sound environmental policy protecting drinking water, Florida’s myriad waterways and combating climate change.

She also hammered away at red tide, which is still plaguing Pinellas County beaches, driving visitors and residents away from the beaches and costing jobs. Cross blamed Brandes for supporting polluters, including the sugar industry.

She also opposed Brandes’ commitment to Florida’s network of charter schools, noting traditional public schools shouldn’t have to share funding with for-profit educators that only teach 10 percent of Florida’s school children.

But Brandes’ vast name recognition and expansive fundraising lead gave him a strong advantage.

Brandes raised more than $2 million compared to Cross’s less than $200,000.

Cross entered the race late after another candidate, Carrie Pilon, bowed out to tend to family medical matters. Her late start left early fundraising efforts sluggish and didn’t give her enough time to build funding momentum to even come close to matching Brandes.

The race isn’t necessarily an upset for Democrats. Unlike other Florida races, Cross was not expected to have a viable shot at upending Brandes’ reign in the Senate.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

1 Comment

  1. I am not sure 54% to 46% …. constitutes trouncing or stomping? Pretty sure most would consider this a fairly tight race … especially given the fact that Brandes was both the incumbent and (as you put it in your last article) 7x more funded than Cross?!

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