Dana Young Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Public schools a winning issue for Janet Cruz in SD 18

Janet Cruz got into the race for Senate District 18 to make an issue out of gun violence, but she discovered quickly that voters in her Hillsborough County district were even more passionate about restoring public school funding.

That became Cruz’s battle cry throughout a tough, nasty campaign against incumbent Republican Dana Young. It proved to be the winning strategy in Cruz’s 411-vote victory out of more than 207,000 votes that were cast.

Cruz, who was forced to leave her Florida House seat because of term limits, had an awakening after a chance meeting with a voter at a South Tampa Home Depot. That woman told her she had gone to the store to purchase portable air conditioners for some classrooms at Roosevelt Elementary School in the Palma Ceia section of Tampa.

Families had pooled money together to buy the units after cooling units at the school crashed. It was a county-wide problem as dozens of schools were affected. Officials said state funding cutbacks left them without enough money to combat the problem.

“Roosevelt Elementary is in one of the wealthiest areas of Tampa, but they still had this problem. We had been hollering and stomping our feet (in the House) when we saw dollars going away from public schools. Journalists wrote about it,” Cruz said.

“But it wasn’t until mothers saw their kids sitting in sweltering classrooms that people decided to make a stand.”

The more Cruz met with those voters, the more she realized how determined they were.

“These were smart women, prepared,” she said. “They knew the issue. I was up there (in Tallahassee) and saw what those guys (lawmakers) were doing, trying to blame the problems on mismanagement by the school districts. That’s ridiculous and these women knew that.

“They came with spreadsheets … Excel charts. I started working with them. I remember one woman told me she was a lifelong Republican, but she was going to vote a straight Democratic ticket because of this issue.”

Democrats targeted SD 18 as one of six districts they believed they could flip in this election and regain control of the Senate. Of those six, Cruz was the only Democrat who won.

She will be sworn in Tuesday.

The name Janet Cruz is well known in the western West Tampa area of Hillsborough, and it’s no surprise she dominated there — piling up wins with totals at many precincts ranging from 61 percent to as much as 86 percent. Young had solid support in the northern precincts but didn’t get the votes she expected in South Tampa.

The contest was marked by charges and counter-charges from the start.

Young’s camp pounced on an unpaid property tax bill from 2010 that Cruz said was a mix-up she self-reported and paid in full after realizing the error.

Cruz fired back with an ad highlighting that Young’s net worth had increased from $667,000 in 2010 to more than $4.6 million, suggesting it was due in part to bills Young sponsored that benefitted her bottom line.

She also attacked Young for walking out of a special Senate session last March in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre when it was time to vote on measures that included an assault weapons ban.

Young claimed she left the floor to tend to other pressing business and later registered votes against the ban and other restrictions. Cruz called Young a “coward” at the time and said that helped convince her to get into the race.

Cruz said that in addition to seeking bipartisan support for increased public-school funding, she will continue the fight for that assault weapons ban. She knows it will be an uphill fight, with Republicans again controlling both branches of the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion.

“I’m not going to advocate for anyone to lose their right to bear arms,” she said. “But I just don’t think it’s justified for just anyone to be able to obtain one of these weapons of death. I’ll keep pushing.”

And listening.

With hand recount complete, Janet Cruz wins battleground state Senate seat

Senate District 18 presumptive winner Janet Cruz is again declaring victory in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Dana Young.

After a manual recount conducted in Hillsborough County, Cruz — who was last the House Democratic Leader — maintains a 382-vote lead over Young, according to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Cruz’s victory is not official until election results are certified. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections will certify election results Sunday at noon.

Technically, more votes could still come in for either candidate. The office can accept signature cures on ballots that were tossed because the signatures didn’t match that on file until Saturday at 5 p.m. Still, that’s unlikely to yield enough votes to sway the election.

“I am happy to finally call my colleague, ‘Senator-elect Cruz,’ ” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, the chamber’s Democratic Leader-designate.

“We always knew Janet would be a fine addition, and the voters thought so too by electing her,” she added. “It’s finally real now that the votes have been confirmed.”

Hillsborough County’s SD 18, which encompasses portions of Tampa, and was one of the seats targeted for a Democratic pickup. The campaign was a heated one, with each candidate hurling accusations at the other.

The Young campaign pressed hard against Cruz over allegations that she did not live in the House District she formerly represented, and over a property tax snafu in which Cruz claimed a homestead exemption on two properties.

Cruz rectified the issue and paid back the tax, plus interest.

Ultimately, Cruz was able to overcome the constant barrage of negative attacks against her and, on election night, walked away with a razor-thin margin in her favor. Since then, that lead has continued to hold.

She officially declared victory the day after the election.

“I am honored to serve the people of Hillsborough County in the Senate and I want to extend my sincere gratitude to Leader Designate Gibson for her support,” Cruz said.

“Senate Democrats have been on the front lines of the battles for a stronger public education system, common sense gun safety reforms, and expanding access to health care to every Floridian. I look forward to standing united with our caucus as we continue the fight for these values on behalf of working families throughout our state.”

Do-over: Dana Young, Janet Cruz race going to hand recount

The machine recount in the Senate District 18 race between Janet Cruz and Dana Young came short 800 votes of the reported Election Day results, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections confirmed Thursday.

As a result, the agency is using its “first unofficial count” reported last week to send back to the state’s Division of Elections for certification.

State election officials ordered Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer to conduct a manual recount in the race because the margin of victory is now within 0.25 percent.

Cruz, the Democrat, narrowly leads Young, the current GOP incumbent.

Cruz already declared victory in an announcement last Wednesday the day after the election. Young has yet to issue a concession.

If the state orders a manual recount, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections workers will begin that count on Friday at 9 a.m. The agency plans to continue counting through the day until 6 p.m. and then resume again Saturday morning during the same hours.

In a recount by hand, only undervotes and overvotes are considered.

If the agency feels it’s not going to finish its counts within that schedule, they will extend counting hours at the main Supervisor’s office on Falkenburg Road.

Elections staff will be at up to 20 counting tables, where employees will review ballots to determine voter intent. Undervotes are those not counted due to unclear or no marking by the voter. Overvotes are ballots in which the voter indicated more than the allotted amount of choices in a single race.

Political party and candidate designees will have the ability to observe counting at those tables, the supervisor’s office said Wednesday.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections is the defendant in a lawsuit filed this week by the Rick Scott for U.S. Senate campaign, alleging the office was not allowing its designees access to recount activities, but rather having them observe behind a glass window.

All Canvassing Board meetings, including those that take place during the manual recount, are open to the public.

Any changes to the Canvassing Board or recount schedule will be posted on the doors of the four Supervisor of Elections Offices and its website.

Here are the six Florida races with orders for recounts

After the drama of election night and fierce battles about counting votes, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Saturday ordered recounts in high-stakes races for U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture commissioner.

The orders, along with recounts slated in three legislative districts, were no surprise: State law requires “machine” recounts when the margins between candidates are 0.5 percent or less. As local officials continued to count ballots after Tuesday’s election, it became clear that all six of the races would fall under that requirement.

The machine recounts will play out over five days, with county canvassing boards required to report results by 3 p.m. Thursday. At that point, races with margins of .25 percent or less will go to manual, or “hand,” recounts.

Counties were required by noon Saturday to report unofficial results to the state. The races set for recounts are:

— The U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott. In the unofficial results, Scott had 4,098,107 votes, or 50.07 percent, while Nelson had 4,085,545 votes, or 49.92 percent.

— The Governor’s race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum. In the unofficial results, DeSantis had 4,075,879 votes, or 49.59 percent, while Gillum had 4,042,195 votes, or 49.18 percent.

— The race for Agriculture Commissioner between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell. In the unofficial results, Fried had 4,030,337 votes, or 50.03 percent, while Caldwell had 4,025,011 votes, or 49.97 percent.

— The race in Hillsborough County’s state Senate District 18 between Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, and House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat. In the unofficial results, Cruz had 104,001 votes, or 50.09 percent, while Young had 103,625 votes, or 49.91 percent.

— The race in Volusia County’s House District 26 between Rep. Patrick Henry, a Daytona Beach Democrat, and Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff. In the unofficial results, Fetterhoff had 30,591 votes, or 50.05 percent, while Henry had 30,532 votes, or 49.95 percent.

— The race for an open seat in Palm Beach County’s House District 89 between Republican Mike Caruso and Democrat Jim Bonfiglio. In the unofficial results, Caruso had 39,228 votes, or 50.02 percent, while Bonfiglio had 39,191 votes, or 49.98 percent.

In a machine recount, all ballots are fed through voting machines. Ballots with “undervotes” or “overvotes” — in which voters may have skipped races or made extra marks in races, causing their ballots to be rejected by the machines — are set aside, or “outstacked.”

In races that go to manual recounts after the Thursday deadline, county canvassing boards will examine the “outstacked” ballots.

The results from the manual recounts must be provided to the state no later than noon on Nov. 18. Two days later, the state Elections Canvassing Commission, comprised of Scott and two members of the Florida Cabinet, will meet in Tallahassee to certify the official election results.

Janet Cruz holds 376-vote lead on Dana Young as recount begins

Democrat Janet Cruz holds a 376-vote lead over Republican state Sen. Dana Young with all votes counted in Florida Senate District 18.

The recount for the race was ordered by the Department of State on Saturday.

Florida law calls for a machine recount if the difference between vote totals for candidates falls with 0.5 percent. If the margin there remains within 0.25 percent, a manual recount must take place.

The margin in District 18 comes in 0.18 percent.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office report a total 91,955 votes cast in the state Senate race. That’s with all provisional, early, vote-by-mail and precinct ballots counted.

The county could receive more overseas vote-by-mail ballots that arrive at the office within 10 days of Nov. 6 election, so long as the votes were sent before the conclusion of the election.

Cruz’s lead has grown since Election Day, when the Democrat held a lead of just under 300 votes.

She declared victory on Thursday after elections officials reviewed 653 additional ballots and added the majority of those to totals, which expanded Cruz’s lead.

But every vote cast in the election will be double-checked.

Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer says he expects to begin the recount process on Sunday, with orders to recount coming in Saturday.

Recounts are currently also underway for the U.S. Senate race, Governor’s election and Agriculture Commissioner contest.

Those races hinge on still uncounted votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties, but the Hillsborough race shows what degree of wiggle room exists with the numbers.

For example, Hillsborough elections officials accepted all 248 Election Day provisional ballots and 42 out 118 early voting provisional ballots.

The Cruz-Young race turned out to be the closest state Senate contest in Florida this year.

Janet Cruz lead over Dana Young grows, but recount still imminent

Janet Cruz’s lead over Dana Young in their Florida Senate District 18 race grew to 355 overnight after the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Canvassing Board began counting provisional ballots and uncounted vote-by-mail ballots.

Cruz’s lead had been just shy of 300. The outgoing House Democratic Leader had challenged Young, a Republican, for the state Senate seat she’s held only since 2016. 

Young’s photograph and personal information already has been removed from the Florida Senate’s website, with a label for SD 18 that says “Pending General Election Result.”

Florida law requires a machine recount for races with margins of 0.5 percent or less, and manual recounts for races separated by 0.25 percent or less.

A recount by hand would only inspect ballots with undervotes, no preference marked, and overvotes, more than one preference marked, for the race in question. 

The current margin is 0.18 percent.

That gap could widen later Friday after the canvassing board meets again to count another 850 ballots. If all of those went for Cruz, which is almost impossible, it would put the race out of automatic recount range.

More than likely, the updated counts won’t change the recount. Here’s why: Many of the votes will be rejected, for a variety of reasons, and some likely will have voted for Young.

Of the 653 ballots reviewed Thursday night, 369 (57 percent) were accepted. Of those, just over 60 added to Cruz’s lead – just 10 percent of all the ballots counted.

If that math holds, Cruz is looking to gain about 85 votes in the next round of counting, which would put her lead at 0.2 percent, still within manual recount range.

All Supervisor of Elections offices must turn in their first set of unofficial election results to the Department of State by Saturday. After that, the department will either certify results, or in races with extremely close counts, order recounts.

That’s expected to be the case in the Cruz-Young race. If ordered, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer will begin a recount Sunday morning.

Despite the looming recount, Cruz has already declared victory in the race. Young has not conceded.

The local elections office accepted 118 early voting provisional ballots Thursday; 76 were rejected. Of those rejected, 42 were because the voter was not registered and 22 had registered after the deadline to vote in this election.

All 248 Election Day provisional ballots were accepted including 144 from voters who simply forgot to bring their ID to their polling place.

Janet Cruz declares victory in close Senate race; Dana Young says not so fast

Democrat Janet Cruz is declaring herself the winner in the Florida Senate District 18 race against incumbent Republican Dana Young despite a narrow margin that will trigger an automatic recount.

With all early and Election Day votes counted, Cruz leads Young by just 355 votes (about 0.17  percent) out of 207,533 votes counted.

“I believe in our system. I believe in our Supervisor of Elections. I believe we will put those ballots back in the counter and that it will come up about the same,” Cruz said in her victory speech Wednesday afternoon.

Florida law requires an automatic recount in races where the vote margin is one-half percent or fewer unless the losing candidate declines the recount in writing to the Department of State.

Young is not doing that, nor is she conceding the election.

“The Senate District 18 race is still a razor-thin margin with additional provisional ballots to be reviewed and will be headed to a state-mandated recount. We will continue to monitor the process and wait for the official results to be certified,” said Sarah Bascom, Young’s campaign spokeswoman.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office has not counted all of the county’s vote by mail ballots, according to its website, but it’s not clear what areas of Hillsborough County have not been counted or if any of those ballots will favor either Cruz or Young.

Cruz acknowledged hers was a hard fought race. She said she and her team pounded the pavement just about every day to reach as many voters as possible and credited a rising tide in voters looking for more representative leadership in Tallahassee.

“The voters of Hillsborough County really showed to me that they want strong women in their seats,” Cruz said. “They want women who will not run from votes, who won’t duck and hide, who will take a stand for both our public schools and our working parents who work every day without health care coverage; who will take a stand on our environment and say ‘hell no, no more green algae, no more red tide that rolls up dolphins and manatees onto our shores.”

If Cruz’s slight lead is certified through the Supervisor of Elections office, she’ll be entering a Senate similar to the House of Representatives she’s leaving. Up until today, Cruz served as the House Minority Leader. She’ll be in the minority party still in the Senate, but the margin will be far less daunting.

If Cruz is elected, Democrats will control 17 of the chamber’s 40 seats. Democrats had targeted five races including the Pinellas County Senate District 24 in which Republican Jeff Brandes won against Lindsay Cross and the North Pinellas/Pasco District 16 in which former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper bested Amanda Murphy. If Democrats had won all of those races, they would have a one-seat majority.

“I’m no stranger to working in the minority, but I found a way to work side by side,” Cruz said. “We cannot continue to polarize ourselves. But I can guarantee you it is a lot easier to work 17 out of 40 than it was to work 41 out of 120.”

Cruz said “once” she takes office, not if, she plans to file a bill requiring people speaking in committee sessions to be sworn in. She hopes that being under oath would tamp down on people sharing untruths during testimony.

“There have been times when I sat in that committee room and listened to people’s testimony and wondered, that can’t be true,” Cruz said.

The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Canvassing Committee meets Thursday evening to certify election results. Details on the recount will be determined at that time.

Here’s how recount in Janet Cruz, Dana Young race will work

State Rep. Janet Cruz looks poised to take over for Dana Young in Senate District 18, but not before the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections conducts an official recount of the razor-thin race.

Florida law requires a recount in races separated by one-half a percentage points or fewer of the total votes in a race.

The gap between Young, the incumbent Republican, and Cruz, her Democratic challenger, was just 289 votes, according to unofficial election results. That margin of victory is 0.14 percent of the more than 207,000 ballots cast.

The Hillsborough County Canvassing Board will meet as scheduled Thursday at 5 p.m. to certify election results and determine if any races require a recount, but the elections office offered no further details on a time frame or its process.

State statute defines the process for automatic recounts. The law as written: “If the unofficial returns reflect that a candidate for any office was defeated or eliminated by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast for such office, that a candidate for retention to a judicial office was retained or not retained by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast on the question of retention, or that a measure appearing on the ballot was approved or rejected by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast on such measure, a recount shall be ordered of the votes cast with respect to such office or measure.”

Keyword “shall.” Under that provision, the race must be recounted so long as Young, the apparently defeated candidate, requests in writing that it not be done.

So far, Young has not done that. Her campaign has not responded to an inquiry about the next steps.

The first step in the recount process is to re-tabulate ballots using the same equipment that processes and counts votes on Election Day. So long as there are no apparent errors with the voting equipment and the recount correctly reflects the original vote, the results can be certified.

Updated results must be submitted to the Department of State no later than 3 p.m. on the ninth day after the election. That’s Thursday, November 15th. In primary elections, officials have just five days to submit count updates.

If any errors are detected, they must be corrected and then the recount conducted. Errors have to be reported to the Department of State within 11 days after the election — Nov. 17 in this case — along with a resolution for ensuring any error is not duplicated in future elections.

It’s possible that the unofficial results reflected so far might be accurate. There were no major voting issues reported in the Senate district on Election Day and the race between Young and Cruz was expected to be tight.

The Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections reports it’s mail ballot tally is only “partially reported” but it is not clear if, or how many, of those ballots are from voters residing in SD 18, which only covers a portion of the county. There are also 200 provisional ballots that have not been counted, but again it is unclear if or how many of those belong to SD 18 voters.

While elections tend to favor incumbents, the area is in a swing district and, unlike many contests against an incumbent, Cruz was already a well-known and successful elected official — the outgoing House Democratic Leader — covering a similar area.

Cruz also may have had a slight edge because of a shift to the left in Hillsborough County as part of the “blue wave” that didn’t take hold statewide, but was felt strongly in Hillsborough.

Democrats took control of the Hillsborough County Commission for the first time in 14 years and two regional House districts flipped from red to blue.

Recount? Janet Cruz vs. Dana Young race in SD 18 still too close to call

GOP state Sen. Dana Young‘s future in the Florida Senate is still uncertain after a nail-biter race against Democratic state Rep. Janet Cruz.

With nearly 200,000 votes cast in the Senate District 18 contest, the two were separated by 289 votes late Tuesday, with Cruz holding a slender advantage. If that margin holds, it would trigger an automatic recount. 

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office said about 5,000 late countywide mail ballots and about 760 provisional ballots still needed to be counted.

Both parties made the Senate District 18 race one of their top legislative priorities in Tuesday’s elections.

The race also was one of the most vituperative in the Tampa Bay area, with a barrage of negative campaigning flooding mailboxes, airwaves and social media.

It started with news that Cruz, the outgoing House Democratic Leader, had failed to pay property taxes on a home she owns her her current House District 62. Cruz claimed homestead exemption on both that property and one her husband owns outside the district.

Cruz immediately remedied the taxes she owed and paid it back in full, plus interest. She said it was an oversight, but the Young campaign capitalized on the blunder and continuously used it in ads against her.

Later, Cruz critics speculated whether she was carpetbagging. She rents a home inside the district, but her husband’s home, where several documents list her as a resident, is outside its bounds.

Questioned about the discrepancy, Cruz provided proof of rent payments. That led to yet another complaint that she did not disclose that rent as a liability on her public financial disclosures as House rules require.

The Cruz campaign, limping from the onslaught of negative headlines, fired back with allegations that Young was using her position in the Florida Senate, and previously the House, to benefit financially.

Young has over the years filed several bills benefitting the craft beer industry. Her husband owns a beer bottling and equipment manufacturing business; the Cruz campaign said he had financial interests in legislation his wife sponsored or supported.

Another note: Young’s reported net worth has nearly tripled since she took office in 2010. 

blue wave

Tampa Bay competitive ‘blue wave’ races to watch

The 2018 midterm election is widely considered one of the most contentious in recent history.

Like all midterm elections, it’s serving as a referendum on the party in power in Washington. But fueled by the overtly contentious Donald Trump administration, Democrats are fired up to send an anti-Trump message this election.

That message is trickling down to state and local races as Democrats seek to capitalize on voter motivation to the polls. Tampa Bay is no different. Here are the races to watch for a potential local “blue wave”:

Dana Young vs. Janet Cruz

Senate District 18 is a swing district. Republican incumbent Young is waging a fierce battle against outgoing House Democratic Leader Cruz to keep the seat red in a Democratic attempt to regain the Senate.

The two are polling neck and neck, with Young carrying a slight advantage. Both candidates have broad name recognition and strong political track records in Tallahassee to run on.

Like many matchups, the difference between the two lies almost solely in partisan difference.

Young supports increasing resources for charter schools and other school choice programs like voucher programs. Cruz opposes public spending on those programs that fall on the backs of traditional public schools.

Cruz wants assault weapons banned in Florida. Young doesn’t.

The outcome in this race will likely come down to voter turnout and whether or not Democrats managed to rally enough support from independent voters to head to the polls.

Amanda Murphy vs. Ed Hooper

The Republican and Democratic candidates in the Senate District 16 matchup could not be more different.

Murphy, the Democrat, is a young woman. Hooper, the Republican, is an older white male.

Murphy is a charismatic candidate, while Hooper is less personable. Murphy has stuck to mostly issue-driven campaigning, while outside groups supporting Hooper have blasted negative ads and mail pieces attacking Murphy.

Both Hooper and Murphy have a legislative track record. Murphy lost her seat to Amber Mariano by just 700 votes in 2014. Hooper left the House and then ran unsuccessfully for Pinellas County Commission in 2014. He lost to Democrat Pat Gerard.

There are a lot of forces driving this race and making it one of many potential flips for Democrats, despite a Republican spending advantage.

First, the district itself is fell into turmoil when its mostly beloved former state senator, Jack Latvala, resigned from his seat after allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Latvala controversy could actually be a boost for Murphy as nationwide voters are showing more support than ever for female candidates to overthrow long-standing ‘good ol’ boys’ club’ members filling elected bodies.

The fact that Hooper is similarly aged to Latvala and a man could put voters off electing another male to the seat.

Second, Murphy is a moderate in a district that’s also fairly moderate. While it leans Republican, Democrats aren’t far behind and independents will play a key role in who walks away with the win.

Like other close races, whichever party reaches those voters will likely emerge victorious.

Jennifer Webb vs. Ray Blacklidge

House District 69 looks poised for a Democratic overthrow.

The seat is open because incumbent Republican Kathleen Peters decided to run for Pinellas County Commission. That made the district a prime target for flipping.

Webb isn’t out-funding Blacklidge, but she’s raising enough money to stay competitive and polling favors a Webb victory.

Both candidates align with their parties on most issues, including gun control, education and health care.

One issue that could play a role in the outcome of this race is the amount of attack ads that have targeted Webb. The ads seek to portray Webb as a political insider tied to “radical” groups that would upend school choice, promote open borders and massively increase taxes.

Those ads have tied Webb to progressive gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Such negative ads can turn voters off and decrease turnout for the candidates they seek to support. That could help Webb.

But the ads, as with other attacks on Democratic candidates, weaponize “socialism” and paint Webb as a tax-happy, job-killing liberal.

If Democrats don’t have success with their get-out-the-vote efforts, those ties could be damning.

Ross Spano vs. Kristen Carlson

As a conservative, Spano should be a shoo-in for the Congressional District 15 race.

The district — which includes Brandon, Plant City and Lakeland — is heavily conservative. It went plus-10 for President Donald Trump in 2016. Incumbent Republican Dennis Ross scored a 15-point victory over the Democratic nominee in that race, Jim Lange.

Yet the race is one of the most indicative in Florida of the Democratic blue wave some are anticipating in a contentious midterm that’s serving as a referendum on the policies of President Trump.

A Carlson campaign internal poll showed the race tied. Other polls have shown a close race with some giving Spano an edge, but not the landslide the district has seen for Republicans in the past. One conservative pollster showed Spano with a massive lead over Carlson.

Carlson’s campaign is buoyed by an influx of cash from Democratic groups supporting targeted candidates to flip red seats in state and federal races. With that support, Carlson has outraised Spano by double and has managed to turn a no-chance race into a competitive one.

As a prosecutor, Carlson battled a high-profile case against the orange juice industry over products sold to public schools marketed as 100 percent pure that actually contained additives. She’s well-known in the district and has used her campaign war chest to further bolster that name recognition.

If Carlson wins, or even comes close to winning, it will likely mirror trends nationwide in Democratic-targeted districts and serve as evidence as to whether or not the blue wave is real.

Gus Bilirakis vs. Chris Hunter

The Congressional District 12 race shares some similar trends with the Spano/Carlson matchup. Like Spano, Bilirakis should be able to secure an easy win against Hunter, his Democratic challenger.

More so, Bilirakis’ win should be made all the easier because of his legacy name recognition. Between he and his father, the two have held the district for more than three decades, making the Bilirakis name a staple in the Clearwater district.

Yet in some ways, the race is even more indicative for Democrats this cycle. It didn’t start out competitive. Hunter initially had trouble drawing down party campaign contributions or outside spending on ads supporting him. Money flowed into races Democrats thought they could flip, and CD 12 was not on that list.

It is now. That’s in part due to a series of blunders by the Bilirakis campaign.

His campaign falsely claimed he had a hand in legislation that clamped down on the nationwide opioid epidemic when, in fact, he had co-sponsored legislation that did the opposite.

The campaign also incorrectly claimed it had received 90 percent of its contributions from Floridians. That number was actually 62 percent.

The headlines gave Hunter and the Democratic Party an opening to boost his name recognition and a shot at taking the seat. Hunter was able to use earned media to push his image as a former federal prosecutor and FBI agent, an image that will bode well across party lines in the north Pinellas district.

Hillsborough County Commission

Democrats have a rare opportunity to flip the Hillsborough County Commission to Democrats.

Two Democrats are waging fierce campaigns against Republicans. If both win, the commission will have a Democratic majority for the first time in 14 years.

It’s a tough climb, but if the blue wave is real, Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith could do what Democrats have been trying to do since 2004.

Overman likely has the best shot of pulling out a win over Republican Todd Marks. The two are running for an open seat, removing the giant hurdle that comes with facing an incumbent.

Overman has been a vocal transit activist in the county. Transit and transportation are one of the county’s hottest topics right now as commuters have grown fed up with unnerving traffic congestion.

She’s also served on dozens of community boards over the years, lending to positive name recognition.

Smith’s campaign will be harder to push through the finish line. She faces longtime Commissioner Victor Crist who, along with Marks, has used his campaign finance coffers to deliver a series of attack ads against Smith.

If Smith manages to overcome that and Overman pulls out a win over Marks, a new Democratic makeup on the Commission could fundamentally change priorities in Hillsborough County.

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