Dana Young Archives - Florida Politics

Dana Young has 3-point lead over Janet Cruz in SD 18 battleground

The first general election season poll of the Senate District 18 battle brought some good news for incumbent state Sen. Dana Young.

The St. Pete Polls survey shows the Tampa Republican with a 3-point lead, 45-42 percent, over House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. The remaining 13 percent of voters are undecided.

The poll shows an improvement for Young over St. Pete Polls’ prior survey of the race, conducted in July. That measure showed Cruz with a 1-point lead over Young, 44-43 percent, with the same level of undecided voters.

In the three months since that poll, Cruz’ share of her Democratic base has slipped from 70 percent to 64 percent, with about half of those voters now sitting on the fence and the remainder declaring they will support Young in November.

Also of note is a tightening of the race among no- and third-party voters. In July, Cruz held a 15 percentage point lead among independent voters. That lead has been cut in half, as Young’s share among that crowd has increased from 34 percent to 40 percent.

Broken down by race, Young leads Cruz 49-41 percent among white voters, who make up 59 percent of the electorate according to the most recently available demographic information. Hispanic voters, who make up 28 percent of the district, prefer Young 43-41 percent. Cruz holds a 2-to-1 lead among black voters, though that represents a decline from her 67-18 percent lead three months ago.

By age, Cruz leads 49-41 percent among Millennials while Young holds a lead with Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation, all of whom make up a much larger share of SD 18’s electorate.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted on Sept. 16 by an automated phone call polling system. It received responses from 988 registered voters who indicated they planned to vote in the general election. Registered Democrats and registered Republicans each made up 38 percent of the sample. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip in the fall and, as evidenced by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s recent spending on an attack ad targeting Cruz, the state GOP is aggressively defending the swing seat.

The district covers much of Tampa and has a close partisan split in voter registrations. SD 18 voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote in a four-way race between her, Democratic nominee Bob Buesing and NPA candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

The 2018 ballot will not be as crowded, with Cruz and Young being the only names printed on the ballot. Neither candidate faced a challenger in the August primary elections, leaving both candidates with substantial war chests for the general.

Young, however, has a near-threefold fundraising lead and shows no sign of slowing down.

At the end of August, Young had about $460,000 in hard money with another $1.38 million banked in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. Cruz, meanwhile, has raised $680,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Building The Bay PC, but has spent nearly $450,000 of that cash in recent weeks, most of it on advertising, leaving her with just $15,000 in hard money and $150,000 in committee cash at the end of August.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Dana Young vs. Janet Cruz race contentious now with more to come

Everyone knew Florida’s Senate District 18 battle between Democrat Janet Cruz and Republican incumbent Dana Young would be contentious. Both women are strong, smart, battle-tested, and play to win – just what we want from candidates.

There is no middle ground here. Voters have a clear choice, and that’s always good.

Democrats targeted the Hillsborough County district as a must-win if they want to take control of the Senate, and Republicans responded accordingly in what will be one of the most-watched races in the state.

So, here’s what we have so far: The Young camp said Cruz was “caught red-handed” cheating on unpaid property taxes, while the Cruz camp basically said Young hates public school children and teachers.

My guess is they’re just getting started.

Young was already scorched by Democrats for being absent from the Senate floor last spring for three votes on three amendments related to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre – including requiring armed security officers in every school.

Young later recorded her vote later in favor of the proposals. She explained that she had to step away from the floor during the eight-hour special Saturday session for quick meetings. She called it a non-issue.

I’m sure it won’t look that way if, or when, the ads roll out.

Cruz, the House Minority Leader, also released a Facebook video, then doubled down with a mailer, that slammed Young over the issue of air-conditioning breakdowns and lead problems in Hillsborough County public schools.

Republicans have been blamed for slashing the public budget in favor of funding charter schools and, well, Young did vote in favor of those budgets that cut $1.3 billion from state public schools – a charge PolitiFact rated “mostly true” in 2013.

Republicans say the money has since been more than restored, but Democrats say the original cuts put public schools in a hole they have been unable to escape.

In the video shot in front of Tampa’s Plant High School, Cruz points to the building where repairs are being made on the cooling units and shouts: “Dammit Dana, tell the truth. Stop telling lies.”

Young’s camp isn’t backing down.

The attack ad over Cruz’s tax issue has played relentlessly on local television. Cruz had unpaid property taxes from 2004 through 2008 for a home she owned in Tampa.

It misrepresents what really happened, of course, but isn’t that true of most attack ads, if not all of them?

Cruz has explained she self-reported a mix-up after she got married to a man who owned his own home and had a homestead exemption. Cruz had one as well on a house she owned.

Florida law allows only one. She paid a $32,000 penalty – or, as the ad says, “was caught red-handed.”

And then, the ad says ominously, she voted against a controversial increase in the homestead exemption because Democrats argued it would strip local municipalities of desperately needed cash. Or, as the ad says, after “cheating” on her taxes, “she voted to up yours.”

Interesting choice of those last two words in the previous paragraph.

Cruz said that Young’s step-out, combined with the massive march in Tallahassee by students and others demanding tighter gun laws, was what pushed her into the race.

That works both ways, of course. Young has an A-plus rating from the NRA, an organization that has been known for rallying support for candidates it likes.

That’s another way of saying people should stay tuned to what’s happening in SD-18.

They’re just getting started.

Bill Galvano (Left) and Wilton Simpson (Right)

Top Senate Republicans raising cash for Tampa Bay candidates on Monday

State Senate President Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will be in Tampa next Friday to help four area Senate candidates boost their campaign accounts ahead of the November general election.

The Sept. 17 event will be held in the Snowy Egret Room on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt, 2900 Bayport Drive, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The invitation doesn’t list a suggested contribution for attendees, though it does ask that they send their RSVPs to Myost@FRSCC.org or call (813) 965-1043.

The reception will benefit the re-election efforts of incumbent Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, Tom Lee of Thonotosassa and Dana Young of Tampa, while also providing a boost to former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is the party’s nominee in the race for Pinellas- and Pasco-based Senate District 16.

Lee, Brandes, Young, and Hooper are all running in seats being targeted by Florida Democrats in the fall, though Brandes is likely safe because the candidate initially recruited by the party, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithdrew because of the unexpected health problems of a close family member.

He now faces Lindsay Cross, and recent polls show that he has a 39-19 percent lead with 42 percent of voters undecided. He also has more than $890,000 on hand between his campaign and political committee, Liberty Florida, while Cross has managed to build only a $44,250 war chest since tagging in for Pilon at the end of July.

Young and Hooper face much tougher battles, however.

Young is up against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Senate District 18, and though she holds a strong fundraising advantage, polling has shown the two Tampanians neck and neck with Cruz holding a slim advantage.

To give Young a boost, the Galvano-chaired Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee recently stepped in with a new TV ad dogging Cruz for her past property tax blunders.

It’s the same situation in Senate District 16, where Hooper is up against former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy — despite a sixfold money advantage and hitting TV early on, Hooper trailed Murphy by two points in an early August poll of their general election showdown.

Lee’s Senate District 20 is the safest of the bunch. He won re-election without opposition two years ago, when the seat also voted plus-8 for President Donald Trump. Through the end of August, Lee had $122,500 in hard money while his opponent, Wesley Chapel Democrat Kathy Lewis, had virtually exhausted her $17,850 in campaign fundraising during her primary contest against Tampa Democrat Joy Gibson.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

FRSCC fundraiser invitation

Cruz - FRSCC TV ad

New ad hits Janet Cruz over past property tax blunder

A new ad paid for by a committee charged with maintaining the Republican majority in the state Senate is hitting House Minority Leader and Senate District 18 candidate Janet Cruz for claiming homestead exemptions on multiple properties a decade ago.

The ad, titled “Lower Taxes,” notes that even though the Tampa Democrat, who is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young, slipped up on paying all of her own property taxes, she voted against a 2017 bill to increase the homestead exemption for all Floridians.

“What do you call a career politician who wants you to pay higher taxes while she plays less? Janet Cruz,” the ad’s narrator says. “Janet Cruz voted against increasing your homestead exemption but was caught red-handed illegally claiming two exemptions for herself.

“Her second exemption? This multimillion dollar bayfront mansion,” the ad says while showing a picture of the property. “For five years, Cruz cheated on over $32,000 in taxes then voted to up yours. The Janet Cruz tax plan: You pay more. She pays less.”

The ad disclosure states it was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a political committee chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano that supports Republican state Senate candidates.

Cruz indeed claimed multiple homestead exemptions from 2004 through 2008, leading the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser to place a $32,000 lien for back taxes on an Empedrado Street home she purchased in 1983. As noted in a 2010 Tampa Tribune article, Cruz had been living in a San Miguel Street home owned by her husband while her then 29-year-old son was living in the Empedrado home.

Florida law only allows property owners to claim homestead exemptions on their permanent residence or the permanent residence of a dependent. Currently, Floridians are exempt from paying taxes other than school district levies on up to $75,000 of the value of their home, depending on its assessed value.

That article also quotes an attorney for the property appraiser’s office as saying Cruz “brought it forward” rather than the appraiser’s office discovering the improper homestead exemption and added that the double exemption didn’t appear to be an intentional violation of state law. In another article, published in 2010, Cruz said she would pay the taxes rather than appeal the lien in court.

“I have always operated within what I thought was my obligation as a taxpayer. As soon as this was brought to my attention, I immediately contacted the Property Appraiser’s Office and went through the proper channels to remedy this situation,” she said in a 2010 statement. “I will certainly do what any responsible citizen would do and pay what I am obligated to pay.”

The ad comes as Cruz is set to release her first TV spot, which details her back story and her reasons for running for the northwestern Hillsborough Senate seat. Young released her first ad of the 2018 election cycle, which pitched her as a problem solver in a time of partisan fighting, in late July.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip in the fall and, as evidenced by FRSCC’s new ad, Florida Republicans are going to be aggressively defending the seat.

The district covers much of Tampa and has a close partisan split in voter registrations. SD 18 voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote in a four-way race between her, Democratic nominee Bob Buesing and NPA candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

Only Cruz and Young will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Janet Cruz TV ad

Janet Cruz says she ‘understands the odds’ in first SD 18 ad

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is introducing herself to Senate District 18 voters with a TV ad covering her background and her vision for the Tampa-based district if she’s elected over incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young in the fall.

The 30-second ad, titled “Odds,” is shot in black and white and features the Tampa Democrat recounting the story of her humble upbringing before saying she’ll look out for everyday people if she moves up from the state House to the state Senate.

“When you’re the daughter of a single mother who worked in a factory, your odds of success aren’t high, and when you become a mom at 16 they get worse,” Cruz says in the ad. “I’m Janet Cruz, and odds didn’t define me — I did.

“I finished high school, graduated college, opened a successful healthcare business and now I’m running for state Senate because I understand the odds for all of us and I will always work to put them in our favor,” she says.

Her campaign said the ad is backed up by a six-figure media buy and will start airing on broadcast and cable next week.

FCC filings show media buys for Tampa’s ABC and NBC affiliates, which are scheduled to start running the ads on Sept. 10. Those filings indicate the advertisements were paid for by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the Florida Democratic Party’s state Senate campaign arm.

Cruz expanded on her background in a press release announcing the ad buy, adding that she turned the challenging moments in her life into opportunities.

“I am running for state senate because too many families have the decks stacked against them because the powerful insiders and well-connected continue to deprive our schools of needed funding, deny access to quality healthcare and do little to protect our children from senseless gun violence,” Cruz said.

“While my opponent attacks, I am asking voters for their trust. I believe that no matter the challenge we face – if we stand together – the odds against us won’t define us in Tampa. We will,” she concluded.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip this fall and has a close partisan split — the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa, voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago while at the same time electing Young with a plurality of the vote.

Cruz’ ad will hit the airwaves about seven weeks after Young released her first ad of the 2018 election cycle, which pitched her as a problem solver in a time of partisan fighting.

Neither Cruz nor Young faced a challenger in the primary. Unlike two years ago, when four candidates made the Election Day ballot, the two women will be the only choices when voters mark their ballots for the Nov. 6 general election.

Cruz’ ad is below.

Dana Young and Jackie Toledo holding joint fundraiser Thursday night

State Sen. Dana Young and state Rep. Jackie Toledo, both Tampa Republicans, are teaming up for a joint campaign fundraiser Thursday night.

The reception will be held on the Yacht StarShip, which docks at 603 Channelside Drive in Tampa, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Those looking to snag a boarding pass can send an RSVP to Kristin Lamb via Kristin@FLFStrategies.com or 850-339-5354.

The host committee for the fundraiser features more than a dozen names, including Yacht StarShip captain Troy Manthey and fellow maritime industry veteran John C. Timmel, who discovered the American Victory and helped bring it down to Tampa. Also on the list are George Howell III of Holland & Knight and Jan Gorrie of Ballard Partners.

Young was elected to Senate District 18 in 2016 and is running for re-election in the fall against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. Early polling shows the two women in a close race, though Young had a threefold fundraising advantage over Cruz as of Aug. 23.

Toledo succeeded Young in Hillsborough County’s House District 60 two years ago and is up against Democrat Debra Bellanti in the fall. To date, Toledo has raised nearly $225,000 for her re-election bid and has $135,000 on hand while Bellanti has cleared $39,000 and has $30,700 in the bank.

SD 18 is one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top targets for a flip this fall and has a close partisan split — it voted plus-6 for Hillary Clinton two years ago. HD 60, however, went narrowly for Trump as Toledo scored a 14-point win over 2016 Democratic nominee David Singer.

The general election is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

Dana Young & Jackie Toledo fundraiser 9.6.2018

Jeff Brandes holding Thursday fundraiser as Lindsay Cross struggles to raise cash

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is holding another fundraiser Thursday for his re-election bid in Senate District 24, where he holds a better than 20-to-1 cash lead over Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross.

Among the several dozen names listed on the host committee for the St. Petersburg reception are former St. Pete Mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster, Pinellas County Commissioners Jay Beyrouti and Karen Seel, Pinellas Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, Tampa Sen. Dana Young, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, St. Petersburg City Councilman Ed Montanari and state Rep. Kathleen Peters, who won the Republican nomination for Pinellas County Commission District 6 last week.

Brandes’ event will be held in the Grand Ballroom of The Birchwood, 340 Beach Drive NE, starting at 5:30 p.m. Those looking for more information or to send in an RSVP can contact Rick Porter or Ivey Rooney via 407-849-1112 or Ivey@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

SD 24 is among the seven state Senate seats Florida Democrats said they were targeting in the 2018 cycle, and early polling showed their initial recruit, trial lawyer Carrie Pilonwithin 5 points of Brandes among likely voters. Pilon’s campaign ended abruptly, however, due to unexpected health problems of a close family member.

Cross stepped in at the last minute and, while she was put in an unenviable position, she has been somewhat flat on the fundraising trail. As of Aug. 23, she had raised $48,725 for her campaign account and had about $44,250 in the bank.

She also failed to preserve the momentum built by Pilon’s campaign when it comes to the polls. The first measure of the race since she became the Democratic nominee showed Brandes with a 39-19 percent lead over Cross. With 42 percent of voters undecided, there’s room for growth for both candidates.

Brandes meanwhile, has raised about $820,000 for his campaign account, including $300,000 in self-funding, and had $531,370 on hand on Aug. 23. Should Cross start to catch up, Brandes has another $360,000 ready to deploy in his affiliated political committee, Liberty Florida.

SD 24 covers most of southern Pinellas except for the tip of the peninsula, which is included in neighboring SD 19. According to the most recent bookclosing report published by the Florida Division of Elections, Republicans hold a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within the district.

Despite the GOP advantage, SD 24 voted for Barack Obama twice before going plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Brandes fundraiser 9.6.2018

Ben Albritton sends backup to embattled GOP state Senators

Wauchula Republican state Rep. Ben Albritton is in good position to ascend to the state Senate in the fall and has started putting some of the cash he’s amassed in his affiliated political committee to the most vulnerable incumbent Republicans in the 40-member chamber.

Albritton’s committee, Advancing Florida Agriculture, has raised nearly $400,000 since he filed for Senate District 26, a Republican stronghold covering all of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties as well as parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk.

SD 26 is open due to Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination to succeed Adam Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner. Albritton’s only challenger in the SD 26 contest is Lake Wales Democrat Catherine Price, whom he has outraised eightfold in hard money alone.

With extra cash in the bank, Advancing Florida Agriculture sent $11,000 to SD 8 Sen. Keith Perry, who faces well-funded Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking in November; $11,000 to former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, who is even with former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the polls despite his massive fundraising advantage in SD 16; $11,000 to Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., who faces Democratic nominee David Perez in his bid to succeed term-limited Sen. Rene Garcia in South Florida’s SD 36; and $6,000 to SD 18 Sen. Dana Young, who is polling behind House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in spite of her threefold cash advantage.

In each instance, Albritton sent $1,000 to the lawmaker’s campaign account with the balance heading to their affiliated political committees.

Though Sarasota Rep. Joe Gruters is likely to cruise in his bid for SD 23 and Ocala Sen. Dennis Baxley only faces nominal opposition in his re-election bid in SD 12, both Republicans picked up $3,500 in contributions to their campaign and committee accounts during the Aug. 25 through Aug. 31 reporting period.

Also on the ledger was an $11,000 transfer to Marili Cancio, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo in SD 40. Again, $1,000 of those funds headed to Cancio’s campaign account and another $10,000 went to her affiliated political committee.

In all, Advancing Florida Agriculture shelled out $57,000 in contributions to Republican state Senate candidates and finished August with nearly $138,000 left in the tank.

When it comes to his campaign account, Albritton had cleared more than $240,000 in total fundraising for his Senate bid as of Aug. 31, with about $149,000 banked. Price had raised $31,312 as of Aug. 23 with $5,155 on hand.

janet cruz

Bob Buckhorn endorses Janet Cruz for state Senate

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz added an endorsement from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for her campaign to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young in northwestern Hillsborough’s Senate District 18.

“Janet is a proven leader, a fighter for working families, and a tireless advocate for public education,” Buckhorn said. “As a member of the Florida House, Rep. Cruz brought back $14 million to Hillsborough Community College, spearheaded Equal Pay for Equal Work legislation, and sponsored legislation that raised police and fire survivor benefits within the City of Tampa to 100 percent.

“As your next Senator, she will continue to fight for what’s right while being laser focused on what’s best for our district,” he said.

Buckhorn joins some of the state’s biggest unions in backing Cruz, who currently represents House District 62. Past endorsements have come in from the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, and the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents more than 1 million Florida workers.

“Mayor Buckhorn is a true visionary and I am honored to have his support,” Cruz said. “Under his leadership, Tampa is thriving. Corporations are choosing to relocate here, and the Riverwalk is flourishing with new businesses, while connecting Channelside to the Heights.

“From the Super Bowl to the NHL All Star Game to the Women’s Final Four, Tampa is now a national destination that we all get to enjoy. I look forward to continue working with him to make Tampa the best place in Florida to live, work, and play for everyone,” she concluded.

SD 18 sits atop the Florida Democratic Party’s wish list this fall. Other than South Florida’s SD 36, where David Perez won the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Manny Diaz, SD 18 is the only district Democrats are after that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

As of Aug. 23, Young held a large lead in fundraising with more than $455,000 in hard money on hand and another $1.27 million at the ready in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young. By comparison, Cruz had $189,000 in hard money and another $330,000 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC.

Cruz and Young both went unopposed in last week’s primary elections. Unlike two years ago, when Young won a plurality of the vote against three challengers, Cruz and Young are the only candidates to make the ballot in 2018.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Central Florida hoteliers back Manny Diaz, Dana Young, Stockton Reeves

The Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association announced five new endorsements following Tuesday’s primaries, including state Sen. Dana Young and state Rep. Manny Diaz for the Florida Senate and Stockton Reeves VI for the Florida House.

The association, a powerful interest group in Central Florida’s tourism-based economy, also announced endorsements of Pete Crotty for the Orange County Commission’s District 3 seat and Melissa Byrd for the Orange County School Board District 7 seat.

On Tuesday neither Young nor Diaz, both Republicans, had primary opponents, and neither are running in districts in Central Florida, yet the area’s hoteliers offered their backing. Young now faces Democratic state Rep. Janet Cruz in the contest for Senate District 18. Diaz will go up against Democrat David Pérez for the Senate District 36 seat.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix in the Republican primary and now faces Democrat Anna Eskamani in the House District 47 race.

In the county elections Tuesday, Crotty finished second to Mayra Uribe. Since neither got a majority of votes on Tuesday, the two are headed to a Nov. 6 runoff election.

Byrd finished first in the Orange County School board election Tuesday. Since she did not get a majority, she and second-place finisher Eric Schwalbach move on to the Nov. 6 runoff.

This past spring the hotel association announced earlier endorsements including Jerry Demings for mayor and Teresa Jacobs for school board chair. Those two and others won Tuesday while most backed by the hoteliers moved on to the Nov. 6 election. The group said there may be more post-primary endorsements coming.

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