Dana Young – Florida Politics
janet cruz

Florida AFL-CIO backs Janet Cruz for SD 18

Representing more than 500 labor unions and 1 million Florida workers, the Florida AFL-CIO announced Thursday it’s backing House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Dana Young in Senate District 18.

“We need a fighter for workers in Tallahassee — to lower health care costs, raise wages, and make sure the hardworking people of Florida are respected, safe, and prospering,” said Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams. “Leader Cruz is our champion because she’s lived it — having been a single working mom trying to keep the lights on, food on the table, and to get ahead for herself and her children.”

The nod comes a few weeks after the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, endorsed Cruz in the battleground race for the Tampa-based seat.

“I’m honored to stand with the working people of the Florida AFL-CIO,” Cruz said. “I will fight every day to make sure workers have a voice in Tallahassee — a voice that speaks louder than special interests making health care less affordable, our schools less safe and less funded, and wages less than they should be. Together, we are going to flip this seat and put workers first.”

Cruz and Young are currently the only candidates running for SD 18. Florida Democrats see the contest, as well as the races for SD 8, SD 16 and SD 24, as key to their chances of forcing a tie in the state Senate. Republicans currently hold a seven-seat advantage in the chamber, with one vacancy.

SD 18 is the only one of those four Senate battlegrounds that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Young was first elected to the seat in 2016 with about 48 percent of the vote.

Cruz has been a member of the Florida House since 2010. After initially filing for a Hillsborough County Commission seat, she announced in mid-April that she would challenge Young in fall. Shortly after that announcement, 2016 Democratic nominee Bob Buesing exited the race to clear the way for Cruz in the primary.

Through the end of May, Young had a massive lead in the fundraising race with more than $1.2 million in the bank compared to Cruz’ on hand tally of about $341,000.

Todd Marks

Todd Marks moves Hillsborough Commission campaign to countywide District 7

Tampa attorney Todd Marks announced Tuesday that he’s entering the race for the District 7 seat on the Hillsborough County Commission, to replace retiring Commissioner Al Higginbotham.

“I look forward to sharing my vision of a leaner county government that keeps taxes low and stays out-of-the-way of small business and land owners and holds the bureaucrats accountable,” Marks said. “I am the only consistent conservative candidate with the background and experience required to make tough decisions when it comes to growth, transportation and public safety.”

Marks, who runs Westchase Law and Westchase Title, was previously a candidate for the District 1 seat currently held by Commissioner Sandy Murman. Murman had planned to run for countywide District 7 seat this year but opted to serve out the remainder of her term in District 1.

Included in Marks’ announcement were endorsements from several Republican elected officials in the Tampa area, including Murman, state Sen. Dana Young and state Reps. Jackie Toledo and Lawrence McClure. Also among the 17 endorsements announced Tuesday were former Jeb Bush and Dick Cheney Chief of Staff Kathleen Shanahan and former Tampa Chamber President Mike Griffin.

“I have known Todd Marks for many years and am excited that he has chosen to run for the Hillsborough County Commission, District 7 seat. As a successful businessman, he will add an important voice for economic development and pro-business policies to our County Commission. In addition, Todd Marks shares my commitment to the environment. We can always count on Todd to protect our water, our children and our quality of life. I ask all Republicans to join me in supporting Todd Marks,” Young said.

Marks joins seven other candidates in the District 7 race including fellow Republican Aakash Patel, who was his chief primary rival when both were candidates for the District 1 seat.

Of the other six candidates in the race, only Democrat Kimberly Overman has posted any substantial fundraising numbers. She has raised nearly $35,000 and has about $13,000 in the bank.

When Patel and Marks bring over the funds from the scrubbed District 1 campaign they are set to take the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in fundraising, respectively. Patel had raised $450,000 as of May 31, while Marks had raised nearly $85,000.

#17 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Dana Young

Ranking for Tampa’s Republican state Senator on this list somewhat hinges on a key decision: whether or not Dana Young plans on running for Senate President for 2022-24.

Citing time constraints stemming from more immediate commitments (i.e., the 2018 Legislative Session), she dropped that bid earlier this year.

Young did, however, manage to get a good number of bills heard in 2018, including, perhaps surprisingly for a Republican, a fracking ban. Though it died in committee, as did another bill she sponsored that would have dedicated money for innovative transit projects in Tampa Bay, Young’s backing of such bills helped solidify her reputation as a lawmaker who’s unafraid to reach across the aisle. Her bill holding telemarketers accountable for ignoring do-not-call lists unanimously passed the House and Senate. So did her bill requiring doctors and midwives to report all “adverse” incidents relating to out-of-hospital births to the state. That bill passed unanimously in both chambers.

“Dana Young is hands down one of the most effective and hardest working members of the legislature,” said Southern Strategy Group’s Sydney Ridley. “She is a master at building coalitions and getting things done for her community.”

On the flip side, she co-introduced a controversial bill that brought USF’s St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campus under control of the USF system’s main campus in Tampa, a piece of legislation that left the Democratic wing of Tampa Bay’s Legislative Delegation more than a little peeved.

Young won her seat over her opponent, Democrat Bob Buesing, by about seven points in 2016 after serving three terms in the House. At the time, Senate District 18 was a freshly drawn swing district. She won it rather easily then, in part because Joe Redner took about 9 percent of the vote in his nonparty bid for the seat. Young could have a tough time this year, given the possible blue wave and a formidable challenge in House Minority Leader Janet Cruz-Rifkin, who has shown some fundraising prowess (Buesing had initially challenged Young for a second time, but dropped his bid when Cruz jumped in). A boon for Young, though, is that she’s a particularly astute fundraiser. Young’s campaign has taken in nearly $426,000 as of late May. Her PAC, Friends of Dana Young, has meanwhile amassed a total north of $2.3 million.

Jack Latvala’s unexpected departure from the Senate due to allegations of sexual misconduct left a huge representation void for Tampa Bay in the state Legislature. Young might not have managed to completely fill it — Latvala was appropriations chair, after all. But Young in many ways embodies the largely moderate spirit of Tampa Bay politics. The big question is whether the war chest she’s amassed will be enough to convince voters, come November, that she’s a far cry from Donald Trump.

“Her strong position on protecting our environment shows true strength and dedication to important Florida issues others often overlook,” says Tampa businessman Akash Patel, a Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Commission District 7.

She came in No. 12 in 2017.

Joe Henderson‘s take: “Facing her toughest election fight yet, but she has lots of money and endorsements.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Janet Cruz and Dana Young, SD 18

Dana Young more than doubles Janet Cruz in May fundraising

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz boasted a $78,975 haul in her second set of fundraising reports since entering the Senate District 18 race but was again overshadowed by Republican Sen. Dana Young, whose reports show $203,550 raised.

“I’m so energized by the outpouring of support and investment in the most flippable seat in the state. We are going to win this so we can pay teachers what they deserve, invest in our schools, expand access to healthcare, and stand up to the gun lobby in Tallahassee,” Cruz said Monday.

Her tally included $48,000 raised via her committee, Building the Bay PC, and $30,975 raised for campaign account. She has now raised $364,670 between the two accounts, including committee funds she raised before filing for SD 18 April 10.

Cruz’s fundraising reports are not yet viewable on the Florida Division of Elections website, though the campaign press release said the two accounts had a combined $341,113 at the ready heading into June.

Young’s haul included $179,500 in fundraising for her affiliated committee, Friends of Dana Young, and another in hard money fundraising 24,050.

OD-EYEPAC sat atop the committee report with a $25,000 contribution. Following at the $15,000 level was Comcast Corporation, Realtors Political Advocacy Committee, Eli Global CEO Greg Lindberg, the Florida Medical Association, Disney Worldwide Services and Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, a political committee linked to the Associated Industries of Florida.

The campaign report included nearly two dozen checks for $1,000, the maximum allowable contribution for state legislative races. It also showed more than $50,000 worth of “in-kind” contributions from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, most of it paying for campaign staff.

After $82,720 in combined spending, Young had $933,000 on hand in her committee account and another $288,000 banked for the campaign, giving her well over triple the cash on hand of Cruz.

Neither Young nor Cruz faces a primary challenger in the race. The election is Nov. 6.

Hillsborough School Board member Susan Valdes considers run for HD 62

Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes is laying the groundwork to run for the House District 62 seat.

Patrick Manteiga of La Gaceta is reporting that Valdes resigned her seat Friday, to take effect November 6, the day of the general election.

“It’s our understanding that her school board seat will be open for qualifying with all the races for the 2018 election cycle from noon on June 18 through noon on June 22,” Manteiga writes. The primary is August 28.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz currently holds HD 62, which encompasses the entirety of Valdes’ school board district. Cruz is vacating the seat to campaign for Tampa Republican Dana Young’s Senate District 18.

Valdes, a Democrat, told Manteiga that she already received the endorsement of Cruz and Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, who previously held the HD 62 seat.

Valdes won re-election to the board in 2016 and “should be considered the favorite” in the HD 62 race, Manteiga adds.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, already filed in the race are Democrats Michael Alvarez, Alicia Campos and Christopher Cano as well as no party affiliated Jason Stuber. Alvarez leads in fundraising with about $17,000, followed by Campos with about $2,700. Both Cano and Stuber have shown no fundraising activity.

Campaign will officially kick off to promote dog-racing ban

Advocates for a ballot initiative to put an end to greyhound racing say they’ll launch their “Protect Dogs – Yes on 13” campaign Monday, with a press conference at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

State Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican and “steadfast advocate of greyhound protection issues,” is slated to attend with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, campaign volunteers and rescued greyhounds, according to a news release.

“I have worked on the greyhound racing issue since my very first year in the Legislature and I am thrilled that the voters of Florida will finally get a chance to decide the fate of dog racing in our state,” Young told Florida Politics.

“I believe that, finally, common sense will prevail and these gentle dogs will no longer be forced to run around a track,” she added.

Amendment 13, placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw the racing of dogs and wagering on such races. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

The proposal also would allow other gambling at tracks, such as card games, to continue even after dog racing ends. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

“Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane,” said campaign co-chair Kate MacFall in a statement. “Thousands of dogs endure lives of confinement and substandard treatment at Florida dog tracks, and every three days a greyhound dies.”

But greyhound owners and breeders, who oppose the ban, deny accusations of cruelty and have challenged the proposed amendment in court.

Undaunted, the campaign chose to kick off at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which it called “one of the leading animal welfare organizations in the state.”

“We are proud to host this historic announcement,” said Sherry Silk, the organization’s CEO. “Dogs play such an important role in our lives, we consider them family, and they deserve to be protected.”

The Protect Dogs – Yes on 13 campaign will next hold 13 grassroots meetings across the state. It recently launched a digital campaign to inform voters through a dedicated website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account.

“This will be a true grassroots campaign,” said Joyce Carta, another campaign co-chair. “We are confident that when Floridians see the way greyhounds suffer in this industry, they will vote ‘yes’ for the dogs.”

Greyhound racing ban backers start campaign on offense

As we enter the dog days of Summer, the battle lines are forming over Amendment 13, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing in Florida.

Now that we’ve seen the initial moves from each side, it looks like it’s shaping up to be a long, tough campaign for supporters of the dog racing industry. While industry backers are focused on a long shot lawsuit to strike Amendment 13 from the ballot, the “Yes on 13” campaign is already running at full steam.

As previously reported by Florida Politics, animal protection advocates have already announced key campaign positions for progressive star Joe Trippi and conservative campaign guru Marc Reichelderfer. The campaign has also made a digital push focused on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and website.

On Monday, Yes on 13 will officially kick off its campaign with an event in Tampa. It’s not an accident, of course, that this historic event is being held in the heart of the I-4 corridor, where Florida campaigns are lost or won, and it’s notable that Tampa’s Republican state Sen. Dana Young will headline the launch event.

Perhaps the shrewdest move the campaign has made, however, is the strategic decision to use the dog racing industry’s own footage against them. Florida Politics has received a copy of a web ad about to be released by the campaign that includes recent footage of greyhound confinement and deaths across the state.

The video highlights four greyhounds that died at Florida racetracks in 2017, including dogs that suffered broken backs and broken legs.

All of this footage was released by the industry itself — one source is a video Sanford Orlando Kennel Club released in 2014 under the title, “The Truth About Greyhound Racing at SOKC.” No matter one’s position on Amendment 13, it’s a safe bet that title will come back to bite opponents of the greyhound racing ban.

If nothing else, the “Yes on 13” video and prior digital efforts provide a clear view of their campaign strategy. They plan to give voters a look at the footage and materials greyhound racing supporters have already copped to knowing about.

Ban backers will assert that these videos are a window into a cruel and inhumane industry, forcing dog race proponents to play defense from the opening shot — a clever and possibly decisive strategy.

The early view from the grandstands is that greyhound racing could very well be entering its final lap.

Dana Young

Dana Young’s committee previews another six-figure fundraising month

May finance reports aren’t due for more than a week, but preliminary numbers show Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young had already raised $169,500 for an affiliated political committee as of May 24.

The in-progress report for her challenger, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, shows just $3,000 in committee cash for the month.

According to the May prelims posted on the Friends of Dana Young website, the Senate District 18 incumbent has received 19 checks this month, including eight contributions of $10,000 or more.

The backbone of that haul includes a $25,000 contribution from OD-EYEPAC, received May 11, followed by a half-dozen $15,000 donors: FTBA Transportation PAC, Realtors Political Advocacy Committee, Comcast Corporation, Florida Medical Association PAC, Greg E. Lindberg and Floridian’s For a Stronger Democracy, a political committee chaired by Ryan Tyson.

Disney checked in at the $10,000 level, making for $55,000 in contributions to the committee since 2015.

Spending so far totals about $49,000 and includes $28,000 in payments to Florida Finance Strategies for fundraising work, $10,000 to Issue Management for political consulting and $8,000 to Bascom Communications for communications consulting.

Cruz’ committee, Building the Bay PC, hasn’t reported any expenditures for May. Its lone contribution came in from Southport Financial Services VP Peter Leach.

Young entered May with total fundraising of $1.45 million raised and $1.1 million on hand, while Cruz had a little over $267,000 banked. That included $146,600 in fundraising as a Senate candidate as well as other funds raised prior to her entering the race in the middle of the month.

Campaign and committee finance reports for May are due to the state June 11.

Dana Young

Police unions laud Dana Young as a ‘tireless advocate’ for law enforcement

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young has earned the backing of four police unions in her bid for another term in Senate District 18.

“Dana cares deeply about the safety of our students, and since Day One, it was clear that she is someone who is not afraid of getting out of her comfort zone to do the right thing,” said Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

“She’s a tireless advocate for law enforcement, and her support of the school safety bill is just one example of how she is willing to make the right vote. The bottom line is she puts people and students over politics, and that’s what we need in Tallahassee.”

Joining the statewide police union in endorsing Young on Tuesday were the Tampa, West Central Florida and Suncoast chapters of the PBA.

“I am beyond honored to have the support and endorsement of the Florida PBA, as well as our local PBA organizations,” Young said. “It is our job, as lawmakers, to ensure we are taking measures to protect the safety of our law enforcement, as well as the safety of all Floridians.

“This includes our students, teachers and those who work in our schools, as they all had their safety put in danger when the senseless tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became a horrible reality. That is why I pledge to continue to be a forceful advocate for our community and Florida, putting politics and party aside to do what’s best for our local area and state.”

The bulk endorsement comes on the heels of a poll showing Young with a 9-point lead in her re-election battle against House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, currently her only challenger in what is expected to be one of the most hard-fought and expensive state legislative races of the cycle.

Young was elected to the Senate in 2016 after taking 48 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for 2016 Democratic nominee and one-time 2018 candidate Bob Buesing. The remaining ballots were split between businessman Joe Redner and no-party candidate Sheldon Upthegrove.

New polling: Jeff Brandes, Dana Young begin re-election campaigns with nine-point leads, while Amanda Murphy, Ed Hooper tied

Two incumbent state Senators enter the summer with nine-point leads over their Democratic challengers, while two former state Representatives seeking an open seat in the Senate are essentially tied, fresh polling shows.

Pinellas Republican Jeff Brandes leads Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon 48-39, according to a survey conducted by St. Pete Polls, while a separate survey shows Hillsborough’s Dana Young up over Janet Cruz Rifkin by the same 48 to 39 percent margin.

And while the Republicans lead in those two battleground races, Democrat Amanda Murphy leads Republican Ed Hooper by less than a point — a surprising position given that she entered the race for Senate District 16 less than a month ago.

All three robopolls were conducted over the Memorial Day weekend and only include responses from those voters who said they intend to vote in the November elections.

The races for Senate Districts 16, 18, and 24 will likely decide the course, if not control, of the Florida Senate as the Democrats have identified the three seats as a package of six they are likely to target during the 2018 election cycle.

The key to Brandes and Young’s leads is that they are holding their bases better than their Democratic counterparts. Brandes keeps 75 percent of Republican voters, while Pilon takes 65 percent of Democrats; Young commands 76 percent of the GOP vote, while Cruz Rifkin wins just 62 percent of Democrats.

(By the way, we see you working Matt Isbell … we’re also intrigued by Young’s lead over Cruz with Hispanic voters).

Murphy’s lead, which comes in a district with a distinct Republican performance (R+5) advantage, is buoyed by her strong performance with independent voters as well as Democrats. The New Port Richey Democrat polled at 78 percent among her own party’s voters and held a 3-point edge among independents, 41-38, with 20 percent undecided.

Hooper holds a slim lead among voters aged 30 to 49 and has a 4-point edge among men. Murphy has a slight lead among all other age groups and has a 5-point advantage among women, who made up 54 percent of the sample.

The new poll of the Pasco-Pinellas battleground also shows Murphy with strong support among Republicans — nearly 1 in 5 likely GOP voters are behind her, while only 12 percent of Democrats were willing to cross party lines for Hooper.

That metric is one Florida Democrats were banking on when they recruited Murphy, who overperformed the party in each of her three elections in House District 36. In her last race she outperformed the top of the ticket, coming within just 691 votes of re-election in a seat Donald Trump won by 20 points.

In the SD 24 poll, Brandes holds major leads in nearly every subset of voters. He leads by double digits among men, white voters, young voters, and voters over 70. The incumbent Republican also edges out Pilon by 9 points among women, 4 points among voters aged 30 to 49 and by 2 points among voters aged 50 to 69.

Pilon did poll better among independents, 42-40, as well as nonwhite voters, however, her 30-point lead among black voters and a 15-point lead among Hispanic voters come in a district where those demographics combine to less than a tenth of registered voters.

The GOP has a 4-point advantage in voter registrations within SD 24, though it was carried by Barack Obama in both of his presidential elections before going plus-7 for Trump in 2016.

In SD 18, Young is enjoying similar leads in the crosstabs — she’s the pick for men (49-38), women (47-40), white voters (52-37), Hispanic voters (51-35), independents (46-41) and all age groups. She also has the backing of more than a fifth of Democrats polled.

SD 18 is the most competitive of the three Tampa Bay-area seats on paper. Democrats make up a larger share of the electorate, and it voted for the Democratic nominee in the last three presidential elections, including a 5-point win for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Where all three Republicans hold irrefutable leads is in fundraising.

Through the end of April, Brandes had more than $550,000 on hand to Pilon’s $100,000 after her first month; Young has $1.1 million banked compared to $267,000 for Cruz; Hooper has $358,000 on hand with Murphy’s first report still pending.

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