Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 295

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

Bob Buckhorn, other mayors trying to get Donald Trump travel ban reversed

Showing support for the Muslim community, Bob Buckhorn attended prayer services Friday at an east Tampa mosque.

Afterward, Tampa’s mayor ripped into President Donald Trump‘s executive order banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told congregants packed into the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque.

“I don’t care what this President did – that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!” he shouted toward the end of his seven-minute address.

Trump’s controversial executive action that he announced last Friday afternoon – which also indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee resettlement program – led to large protests in airports across the nation last weekend, and has been denounced by most congressional Democrats.

However, like opinions of Trump himself, Americans are divided on the move.

A majority of Americans — 51 percent — disapprove of the ban, while 45 percent approve, according to a CBS News poll released Friday.

The Trump administration criticized the media’s reporting on the executive order, denying it’s a travel ban at all.

But Buckhorn wasn’t buying that.

“For anyone, including the President of the United States, to demonize any religion, and make no mistake, they can call it what it is, but it’s a ban, it’s an attack on Islam as a religion,” Buckhorn said, voice rising in intensity. “It is not vetting. It is singling out a single religion. And specific countries.”

“We don’t have a litmus test based on religion in America,” the mayor added. “We never have, and we never will.”

A coalition of progressive groups, working under the title #WeAreAllAmerica, called for a national day of action with community rights leaders, activists and leaders to protest Trump’s actions Friday.

Buckhorn said he was contacted earlier this week by officials from the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay, and he leaped at the invitation.

Speaking to reporters after he shook hands and took selfies with dozens of men who observed Friday prayers, the mayor said he had participated in a conference call earlier this week with a handful of other mayors like Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti, New Orleans’ Mitch Landrieu, Austin’s Steve Adler and four other mayors representing the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“We’re looking at legal action,” he said about the group’s response to the executive order. “We’re looking at internal action, in terms of lobbying. We’re looking at every avenue we possibly can.”

Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington state all filed lawsuits in the past week, contending the order violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom.

The city of San Francisco is challenging another Trump directive – the tone that would deny federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities,” a term defined as cities having adopted sanctuary policies toward undocumented immigrants, which local officials argue help local police by making those immigrants more willing to report crimes.

Buckhorn said Friday again that Tampa is not such a city, but added he wouldn’t be directing his police to act as officials with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the White House confirmed an earlier story first reported in Friday that Trump will be making a stop at MacDill Air Force Base Monday morning.

When asked if he would be accompanying the president, Buckhorn quipped: “He hasn’t invited me.”

“He probably won’t after today,” he joked.

Buckhorn then took a serious note, saying that if Trump did ask him for a visit, he certainly would honor his request.

“He’s the President of the U.S.,” he noted. “We want him to succeed, because if he succeeds, the country succeeds. This is the wrong way to go about doing that.”

Donald Trump to visit MacDill AFB Monday

Donald Trump will make his first visit to MacDill Air Force Base as President Monday.

The president is spending the weekend at his luxury resort in Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach this weekend, leaving Washington Friday night and staying through Monday morning.

MacDill is home to the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) and the United States Operations Command (SOCOM), often referred to as the nerve and muscle center of the war on terror.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced it Friday.

The President’s visit comes just days after a U.S. raid in Yemen on al-Qaida that left one Navy SEAL dead, along with an unspecified number of civilians. There have also been reports of civilian casualties, ranging from 16 to 30.

U.S. Central Command has acknowledged that civilian deaths were likely and said it is continuing to investigate.


Andrew Gillum says he stands with Florida teachers in opposing Betsy DeVos

Tallahassee Mayor and potential 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum says America’s kids deserve someone better than Betsy DeVos to serve as education secretary.

The U.S. Senate voted early Friday to advance President Trump‘s choice at education to a final confirmation vote, expected Monday. The vote was 52-48 along party lines.

Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson has already announced that he will oppose DeVos, as have Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. No other Republican Senator has joined them, however.

In his statement, Gillum says “the attack on our teachers must end,” adding that DeVos responses during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Education Committee earlier this month, “fell woefully short of the kind of leadership we need to ensure that all Floridians have a quality education.”

National teachers unions have mounted an aggressive campaign against DeVos, contending that she is an ideological extremist with a record of undermining the public schools her department would oversee.

The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest teacher’s union. It boasts over 140,000 members statewide, and getting their support in a statewide race would be a huge boost for any Democrat.

Here is Gillum’s full statement:

“Public education changed the trajectory of my life. I can still hear my grandmother’s voice telling me to ‘Go to school, mind my teachers, get my lesson, and bring that education home — for my brothers, my baby sister and the kids down the street.’ It was a reminder that if we were going to get anywhere; we would get there together. As a student at Westwood Middle School, I never thought I would excel in challenging courses until a teacher named Ms. Alexandria encouraged me to try my hand at an honors class.

“The attack on our teachers must end, because it hurts the ability of the vast majority of our kids to get an education that will position them to succeed. A high-quality public education is a civil right. This is why I stand shoulder to shoulder with Florida’s teachers in opposition to Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Her answers during her Senate hearing fell woefully short of the kind of leadership we need to ensure that all Floridians have a quality education.

“We have an opportunity to re-imagine how we deliver a world-class public education for our kids; while also supporting the teaching professionals who carry the responsibility of helping shape the young minds who will power us into the future.

“Our kids deserve better than Betsy DeVos.”

Dana Young decries the ‘shrill tone’ coming out of Tallahassee

The clash between Rick Scott and the leaders of the Florida House and Senate have dominated the front pages of several Florida newspapers this week, and Dana Young doesn’t like it one bit.

“There is this angry, shrill tone coming out of Tallahassee, and I truly don’t understand why,” the GOP District 18 state Senator told a crowd of over 50 people at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa on Friday morning.

“I kind of feel that we’re on the same team and we should be working together to get a budget passed,  but this shrill screaming is discouraging,” she continued. “So it could take awhile.”

The biggest public clash has been the different budget proposals unveiled from the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The House plan would eliminate the state’s economic development agency Enterprise Florida and the state’s tourism marketing arm Visit Florida, angering Scott.

The House would also eliminate any public subsidizes for film incentives and sports stadiums. When asked where she came down regarding the issue of giving incentives to recruit businesses to Florida, Young said she saw validity to both arguments, but said she didn’t believe it is necessary to get rid of state agencies.

“It’s an interesting argument,” she said, adding that there was no right answer about whether economic incentives are good or bad. But she did come out strongly in support of Visit Florida, saying their advertising efforts have been the fuel that has led to record tourism numbers in the state the past couple of years.”Why completely do away with an agency that by all appearances is doing a decent job of bringing people here?”

Young represented South Tampa and western Hillsborough County in the Florida House for the past six years before graduating to the Senate representing roughly the same geography last fall. That’s when she defeated Democrat Bob Buesing and independent candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove  in a bruising campaign that led to bitter feelings on all sides.

Third party environmental groups also ganged up on trying to bring Young down, attacking her specifically for her vote in the House on a controversial bill regarding fracking. Young denied the claims that her support for the bill in the 2016 legislative session was a vote of support for fracking, and she’s delighted many of those same groups by introducing a bill (SB 442) that would eliminate fracking in Florida with bipartisan support.

She isn’t ready to say that it will get clear sailing this year, contending that there will be ferocious opposition to the bill, and asked that her constituents have her back when the bill gets debated this spring in Tallahassee.

Young did support Amendment 2, the medical marijuana constitutional amendment that was overwhelmingly supported by the public last fall. However, she’s urging a cautious approach to implementing it, co-sponsoring a bill with Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley (SB 406) that limits the number of marijuana producers to seven, though it could expand to as many as 20 or more medical marijuana producers once the number of patients registered for that treatment reaches 500,000.  A competing bill by St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes (SB 614) eliminates the cap on how many marijuana producers there can be in the state and sets up four new types of licenses so companies can be licensed to grow, process, transport or dispense.

Bradley and Young’s proposed legislation would also eliminate the current requirement that doctors treat patients for at least 90 days before being allowed to order marijuana for them. It also would expand to 90 days from 45 days, the amount of marijuana supplies patients can purchase.

Young says she prefers to maintain the concept of vertical integration, which keeps the same company that grows the plant also processes it and dispenses it.

The Senator also discussed her just introduced bill that would allow small craft breweries the opportunity to self-distribute their product to other establishments, saying it demonstrated her support for “the little guy.”

A member in the audience questioned her on why she didn’t embrace that same concept when it came to medical marijuana?

“If we let this genie out of the bottle, there is no putting it back in,” Young responded, acknowledging that there was an inconsistency in her philosophy regarding the two issues.

Like several of her GOP colleagues in the Tampa Bay Area, Young has been a big supporter of ridesharing companies, and a huge critic of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which the local delegation has already voted to eliminate later this year. But Young did take up for the taxicab industry on Friday, saying it is unfair that they have to pay a premium fee to be legally allowed to pick up fares at Tampa International Airport, while Uber and Lyft are doing so without paying anything.

Regarding the upcoming gun debate in the Legislature, Young declined to speak specifically about pending legislation, and instead posited the question as being simply whether more guns or less guns make the public safer. Referring to the fall of 2015 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, she decried the fact that school was a gun-free zone.

“How would you feel if you were that chancellor and you opted not to allow students who were adults with guns, to carry guns on campus when that shooter came in, and they could have killed him,” she said. “But there was nobody there to respond.”

The event was for the “Cafe Con Tampa” lecture series. Co-organizer Del Acosta said the crowd in attendance was the largest in the group’s history.


Environment Florida wants Bill Nelson to reject Scott Pruitt as EPA head

Scott Pruitt is one step closer to being the next leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Thursday, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-0 to confirm Pruitt, who serves as Oklahoma Attorney General.

Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote.

Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, was one of 14 attorneys general suing the EPA over regulations to limit carbon emissions put in place by the Obama administration.

The entire Senate will vote on his confirmation next week and the advocacy group Environment Florida is calling on the Sunshine State’s two senators to reject his nomination.

“This country needs an Environmental Protection Agency Administrator whose top priority is protecting our air and water and our families’ health,” says Turner Lott, Environment Florida’s campaign organizer. “We need somebody willing to enforce and defend our bedrock environmental laws and a leader guided by science when creating and implementing policy.”

The organization is one of several environmental groups criticizing Trump’s choice at EPA.

While Environment Florida is calling on both senators to oppose Pruitt, Marco Rubio already declared his support.

“The next EPA administrator should be someone who understands the important balance between protecting our air, water and environment without needlessly hurting workers with excessive regulations,” Rubio said in a Jan. 10 statement. “Attorney General Pruitt ‎is the right choice to bring a much-needed dose of common sense to a department where overzealous, out-of-touch regulators have been allowed to operate seemingly unchecked. I look forward to working with him on the many important environmental issues facing Florida.”

Florida’s senior Senator, Bill Nelson, is getting lobbied from both sides to either support or oppose Pruitt. The Florida Democrat pleased liberals Wednesday by announcing his opposition to Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.

“I will be joining my Republican colleagues Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in voting ‘no’ against Betsy DeVos,” Nelson declared in a statement.

“Floridians and all Americans deserve an EPA administrator who will fight to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we love. Scott Pruitt fails on all these accounts,” Lott said. “The Senate must stand with science. The Senate must stand up for our families’ health, clean water and clean air.

“We urge Senators Nelson and Rubio to reject President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.”


In Miami Beach minimum wage fight, Philip Levine tells Rick Scott ‘I’ll see you court’

Gov. Rick Scott and state of Florida are joining a lawsuit against Miami Beach over an attempt by the city to ultimately raise its minimum wage to $13.31 an hour.

After Miami Beach approved a measure last year raising its minimum wage ordinance, Mayor Philip Levine predicted the state would challenge the proposal in court. Levine said the ordinance violates a state law signed by Scott that forbids such measures.

On Wednesday, the state did just that, by signing on to a suit filed in December by three of the state’s largest trade groups challenging Miami Beach on the ordinance.

“It’s truly unnerving that the state of Florida, under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott has joined the special-interest-backed lawsuit against the residents of Miami Beach who feel the pressure of wage stagnation,” Levine said Thursday. “We know that wages have not kept up with the cost of living, which is felt more acutely in South Florida communities like Miami Beach.

“Our residents and workers are counting on their leaders to stand up for them after seeing Tallahassee continuously roadblock progress.”

Levine, a Democrat seriously considering a run for governor next year, first proposed increasing his city’s living wage in May 2016; city commissioners approved the measure a few months later.

Scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2018, the proposal would gradually increase the living wage to $10.31, increasing over four years to $13.31.

The new minimum wage will apply to all workers employed in the City of Miami Beach, as well as those covered by the federal minimum wage.

The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit in December challenging the ordinance. They claim it’s a direct violation of a 2013 law signed by the governor forbidding municipalities from assigning their own minimum wage.

But attorneys for Miami Beach argue the state law is unconstitutional since voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that allows local governments to set higher minimum wage.

Originally pegged at $6.15 an hour, it’s now $8.10 an hour.

“If the state challenges us, the courts will have to decide,” he told last year.

As to what Levine is saying to the governor today?

“So, to the state, I say, see you in court.”

Dana Young files bill allowing craft breweries to distribute limited amounts of their own product

Dana Young is introducing new legislation to give small craft breweries the ability to move product through other craft breweries.

But the “Big Beer” industry in Tallahassee is already expressing concerns about SB 554, the Senate proposal filed Thursday by the Republican from Tampa.

The bill allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year, and does not currently have agreements with distributors, to move its product to other Florida craft breweries.

“I am proud to sponsor SB 554 and continue to be an advocate for our state’s craft brewers,” Young said. “We want to see the craft beer industry continue their trend of record growth and this bill will help new brewers get their beer to market faster. I look forward to working with the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, my colleagues in the Senate, and members of the Florida House to provide a regulatory structure that encourages craft brewers to grow.”

In the summer of 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law allowing craft breweries to finally sell beer in 64-ounce containers known as “growlers.” Until then, Florida (bizarrely) was one of the few states in the nation that didn’t legally sanction such growlers.

But a key part of that legislation allowed craft breweries to ship its product to affiliated locations, up to eight in the state.

That represented a small chip in the “three-tier” alcohol beverage regulation system, which has historically given distributors exclusive power to move beer from manufacturers to the retailer. Passage of the 2015 bill lifted a requirement that those breweries operate as tourist attractions — otherwise known as the “Busch Gardens” exception, named after the Tampa amusement park (then owned by Anheuser-Busch). It allowed them to serve beer at its theme park’s hospitality centers.

That bill maintained that all other alcoholic beverage products (beer, wine and cider) had to go through a distributor.

Young’s new legislation would permit craft breweries (currently without distribution agreements) to send its product to unaffiliated brewers, as well as restaurants and other retail outlets, another potential crack in the three-tier system.

While most craft breweries in Florida generally have distribution agreements, Young’s bill would allow new breweries to have an ability to move product without having to go through a distributor.

“It’s troubling,” says Florida Beer Wholesaler Association executive director Mitch Rubin, “because it upset the balance of the 2015 law.”

Women’s March activists to hold meetings throughout Florida this weekend

Activists who traveled to D.C. for the historicWomen’s March, or participated in one of the several protests held on January 21 in Florida, will be holding meetings up and down the Sunshine State this Saturday to strategize on what happens next in the burgeoning movement against the Trump administration.

Officials with the Women’s March on Washington Florida Chapter say that they will officially become a non-profit movement called the Women’s March Florida as of this weekend.

In Tampa, that meeting will take place at 4:00 p.m. at the Jimmy Keel Regional Library, 2902 W. Bearss Ave.

In St. Petersburg, interested members will be meeting at 4: 00 p.m. at Nova 535, 535 Mlk Jr. Organizers say that they will address “where we are going, who we are aligning ourselves with, as well as how we’re addressing all of the rapid threats of the current Administration.”

In Tallahassee, the meeting will take place at 4:00 p.m. at the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, 2015 Fleischmann Road.

In Gainesville, the meeting will take place at 1:00 p.m at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, 4225 NW 34th St.

And with President Trump scheduled to spend the weekend at his Winter White House retreat at Mar-a-Lago, activists say that they will greet the president there, meeting at Trump Plaza in Palm Beach at 5 p.m. before departing to Mar-a-Lago at 6 p.m.

Tampa Bay Legislative Delegation attempts to find answers for regional transportation fix

Tampa Bay’s Legislative Delegation, with state lawmakers representing the area’s eight counties, spent two hours Wednesday in Clearwater discussing how to begin addressing the region’s myriad transportation issues.

According to a new white paper prepared by the D.C.-based Enos Center for Transportation for the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional structure for transportation planning, operations and decision-making is paramount to the development of a regional transport network.

That conclusion might make an interested observer ask — isn’t that what TBARTA was supposed to be?

A decade ago, the Florida Legislature created the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority to develop and implement a regional transportation master plan of the seven-county West Central Florida region. As Manatee County GOP Senator Bill Galvano recounted Wednesday, it was produced without a funding mechanism, after then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the $8 million in appropriations set for its conception.

“That was  a shock to all of us,” Galvano said, adding: “I don’t think he (Crist) realized the connection and it fell through the cracks.”

Whether TBARTA can ultimately become that vehicle as intended was only mentioned toward the end of the meeting held at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Lawmakers also heard from Tampa Bay Lightning owner and Channelside developer Jeff Vinik and Barry Shevlin, co-chairs from the transportation group working with the Tampa Bay Partnership. The group also worked with the Enos Center to produce the white paper.

Vinik’s comments were more general. Waiting for another five to ten years to develop a master plan, he said, will constrain the growth of the Tampa Bay area. Vinik said all options for transportation improvements — roadway expansion, BRT lines, light rail, commuter rail, etc. — all were on the table.

“I know it’s critical that we reach consensus in a direction that we want to head,” he said.

Shevlin delved more into specifics.

“We’re a top twenty metro area, but we’re acting like a collection of municipalities and counties and not a region,” he stated, adding that there was obviously no regional structure for transportation planning or decision-making in general happening in the area.

And twice during his public comments, Shevlin lamented the fact that as of last Saturday, there were 14 different buses moving from Dover in Eastern Hillsborough County to downtown Tampa, yet there wasn’t a single vehicle going from Tampa to Clearwater or St. Petersburg.

Shevlin outlined four priorities the Partnership believes need to happen.

One is to create a multicounty Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The second plan is to support a regional center for transit operations. Shevlin said HART and PSTA, the two biggest transit agencies in the Bay area, should have a “closer relationship,” but left it open as to how that happens.

Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala called for a consolidation of the two agencies more than four years ago. After conducting two different studies, that merger never happened, though the agencies are poised to sign an interlocal agreement which will necessitate more joint efforts.

Shevlin also called for a uniform regulatory law in the state regarding ride share, which Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant later assured would happen in this year’s session. And the fourth priority is the regional transit study being conducted right now by the Florida Dept. of Transportation which involves the very controversial Tampa Bay Express project.

TBX was almost an afterthought in the discussions, even though the multibillion-dollar plan was hailed as a much-needed congestion relief package. Democrats Sean Shaw and Darryl Rouson, who represented the neighborhoods slated to be deleteriously affected by the TBX proposal, both counseled FDOT to double down on its efforts to communicate with the local community. “As it relates to TBX, my constituents don’t feel that they’ve been heard,” Shaw said.

Senator Galvano said that there had been too much parochialism in the past when it comes to local governments wanted to help out other governments in the 2.9 million universe that is the Tampa Bay area.

“I don’t know if we can get there,” he admitted. “It’s a real challenge, getting the mindset that you may have to ante up in your community for a regional plan that’s not going to impact your community for maybe one, two, three or maybe four years.”

As to whether TBARTA could ever become that agency?

“They are operating on a shoestring budget, cobbled together on donations from local governments,” said Shawn Harrison, who served on the TBARTA board after its creation.

“If we can take that vision and expand, I really do think we do have at our disposal a vehicle that can plan and put assets on the road,” added Harrison, a Republican who now represents House District 63.

“We do have a shoestring budget,” echoed Ray Chiaramonte, TBARTA’s executive director. He did say that every local government except for Sarasota funded the agency last year.

Galvano appreciated the work of the Tampa Bay Partnership, but said looking at his colleagues from counties as diverse as Sarasota to Polk: “It’s not about the Tampa Bay Partnership, it’s about us, and it’s going to take some effort.”

Janet Cruz says Florida Dems won’t ‘mainstream hate speech’ in 2017

While some Republicans in Tallahassee were startled last week when Democrats walked out of a committee hearing in reaction to a speaker who made controversial comments, Janet Cruz says her caucus won’t be “mainstreaming hate speech as a legitimate part of political debate” anytime soon.

The Democrat House Minority Leader was referring to Thursday, when five Democrats in the House’s Children, Families and Seniors subcommittee panel stood up and walked out in reaction to chair Gayle Harrell giving Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, the platform (via Skype) to testify during a discussion of resettling refugees.

One of the more provocative comments Krikorian made that irked the Democrats was when he wrote “my guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough” in the National Review in 2010.

Although her caucus respects any member of the public who speaks at a committee hearing, Cruz said they specifically objected to Harrell inviting a “white nationalist.”

“This is what’s happening with the Trump election,” Cruz said, addressing an audience at Ybor City’s Robert W. Saunders Library Tuesday night. “I feel they like ripped a lid off a bubbling cauldron of hate, prejudice and bigotry and gave them permission to express it aloud. And we won’t be part of it. “

During her appearance, which lasted more than a half-hour, Cruz weighed in on several subjects. The speech came after Cruz made the four-hour drive each way to and from the state capitol that day for The Associated Press Legislative Planning Session.

Regarding education, Cruz decried saying teachers and unions have been “villainized” in Tallahassee. Efforts will continue to privatize the school system and public hospitals, which she predicts will be Republican’s new “villain” in Tallahassee, she said.

Cruz also talked about the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission, whose membership has yet to be announced. The group will have the power to put proposals directly on the 2018 ballot to amend the state’s constitution.

“There could be an amendment to legalize vouchers, an amendment to repeals the Fair Districts amendment,” she warned.

Introducing Cruz was former Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, who lost a close race last fall to Republican Shawn Harrison in House District 63. Also in the crowd was Democrat Bob Buesing, who lost to Dana Young in the Senate District 18 race. Cruz says the GOP machine destroyed both candidates with direct mail campaigns.

“They took this kind Bob Buesing, whose done nothing but served this community, and they made a monster out of him,” she said, surmising that Democrats “have to get better at being ugly.”

Cruz spoke of her own humble beginnings, which led to her becoming the first Hispanic female leader of the House Democrats. As for her current gig, she said it wasn’t easy being the leader of men and women who are, in turn, leaders in their own respective communities.

“It’s like herding alpha dogs sometimes,” she joked. “Everybody is a leader and they’re used to leading and you’re trying to tunnel everybody in one direction, but it works, and I think we have a more cohesive caucus than we’ve had in a very long time.”

Cruz also discussed some of the legislation she has proposed this year, including another proposal for equal pay for women.

“I do not understand why if you have a different appendage you should be entitled to a different paycheck,” she asserted.

And her take on how state government is run? Tallahassee doesn’t have a spending problem or a revenue problem, she said.

No, she says the Legislature has a “priorities problem.”

She also recognized some realities. After all, there are only 41 House Democrats in a 120-person chamber.

“Keep complaining,” she advised the mostly female audience. “It’s egregious (in Tallahassee). And I need all of your help.”


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