Dana Young – Page 2 – Florida Politics
janet cruz

Janet Cruz’s school safety vote is the kind of vote that could haunt Democrats in November

No one is surprised that guns are the big political issue in Florida this year.

With a deadly school shooting this week in Santa Fe, Texas, and the Parkland tragedy in February, guns and school safety are assured to be at the forefront in both Florida and nationwide for 2018.

The best evidence of this rests in Tampa’s Senate District 18, where the rhetoric over guns has already begun to heat up between incumbent GOP Sen. Dana Young and outgoing House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz.

On Sunday, Young took to Twitter to note that Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister ordered additional policing in county schools throughout the coming week, a result of the Friday shooting in Santa Fe.

Funding for the increased law enforcement presence came from the $400 million “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” which passed quickly after Parkland and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March.

“Sheriff @ChadChronister and @HillsboroughSch have finalized plans for implementing our enhanced school security program here in Hillsborough County,” Young tweeted. “Our number one goal is keeping our children safe!”

Chronister’s plan is being funded by the school safety bill lawmaker passed at the end of Session. Young voted for the bill despite pressure from the NRA not to. Cruz voted against the package including, the common-sense gun law reforms.

The Act, which the House approved 67-50, was a particularly difficult vote for Democrats (including Cruz), who took a caucus position against it, mostly justified by their opposition to armed personnel in schools.

Reservations about arming teachers could be a valid point to some, but just as many (if not more) believe it is a good idea. And that could prove problematic later.

Since guns are the guaranteed issue of the day — and we like and respect both candidates in SD 18 — Cruz’s vote against a school safety package could, unfortunately, come back to haunt her and hurt Florida Democrats this November.

janet cruz

Teacher union touts Janet Cruz as ‘tireless champion’

The state’s largest teacher union announced Wednesday that it is backing House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in her bid to unseat Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in Senate District 18.

“Rep. Janet Cruz has been a tireless champion for our educators, students, and parents,” said Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall. “While Republicans, including Senator Dana Young, voted to underfund public education, undercut teachers, and emphasize testing over teaching, teachers have always been able to count on Rep. Cruz.”

Cruz said she was “honored to receive this support from our educators.”

“Because of the failed leadership in Tallahassee, Hillsborough County schools are having to cut teachers, including bilingual classroom aides, and can’t even afford to repair air conditioning in certain schools — while brand new for-profit schools are being funded and built with tax dollars that should be going to our public schools,” Cruz said.

“It’s unacceptable. Tallahassee has to change. We need more teaching, less testing, higher teacher pay, and lawmakers who show up, just like educators and school staff do every single day without fail.”

The job cuts Cruz referenced are detailed in a Tampa Bay Times article on Hillsborough County Schools’ $38.2 million budget shortfall for next school year, which caused the district to cut 800 jobs, including 220 elementary school teachers, 116 custodial workers and 106 bilingual classroom aides.

Cruz launched her SD 18 campaign on April 10. Fellow Democrat Bob Buesing, the 2016 nominee in SD 18, exited the race and announced encouraged his supporters to back Cruz. The move left Cruz as Young’s lone challenger for the Hillsborough-based district.

Through three weeks in the race, Cruz’ campaign and an affiliated committee reported raising $146,600 – more than Buesing did in three months. Including money she had raised prior to entering, she has $267,200 on hand.

That gives her a jumpstart in catching up to Young, though she is far from matching the Tampa Republican’s overall totals of $1.45 million raised and $1.1 million on hand.

SD 18 is atop the list of districts Florida Democrats think they can flip in 2018. It is the only one of their main targets – which also include SD 8, SD 16 and SD 24 – that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election cycle, and Cruz is by far the most experienced candidate Democrats have recruited to run in one of those battlegrounds.

Young was elected to the Senate in 2016 after taking 48 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for Buesing. Nearly 10 percent of the remaining ballots were cast for businessman Joe Redner while no-party candidate Sheldon Upthegrove received 1 percent support. Early in his 2018 campaign, Buesing pointed to Young’s victory via a plurality as evidence that the seat was ripe for a flip in 2018.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Alexa Chappell is no longer staff director for the House Democratic Leader’s office.

Off: Bo Pittman is no longer program manager for the House Property Management Division.

Off: Whitney Langston is no longer an attorney for the House Health & Human Services Committee.

On and off: Sharon Nehring his replacing Alex Bickley as a legislative assistant for Lady Lake Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley. Nehring previously served as legislative assistant for Mount Dora Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan.

Off and on: Kasey Lewis is a legislative assistant for Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman. She was previously a legislative assistant for Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite.

Off: Laura McLeod is no longer legislative assistant to Plantation Democratic Sen. Lauren Book.

Off: Jay Ferrin is no longer legislative assistant for St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Off: Nicholas Alvarez is no longer a legislative assistant to Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores.

Off: Jerome Maples is no longer district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson.

Off: Sarah Schwirian is no longer legislative assistant to Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee.

Off: Kayla Lott is no longer a legislative assistant to Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

Off: Delano Allen is no longer legislative assistant for West Palm Beach Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell.

Off: Leila Wilson is no longer legislative assistant to St. Petersburg Democrat Sen. Darryl Rouson.

Off: Chad Davis is no longer a legislative assistant to Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel.

Off: Erika Grohoski is no longer executive district secretary for Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

Off and on: Paula Tonelli is replacing Matthew Floyd as a legislative assistant to Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young.

Off: Darryl Banks is no longer legislative assistant to Miami Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran.

Off: Kathleen Larsen is no longer district secretary for Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle.

On: Brett Nolan is the new district secretary for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer.

Off and on: Kimberly Simon moved from district secretary to legislative assistant, Joshua Aman is the new district secretary and Trent Phillips is no longer legislative assistant for Tampa Republican Rep. James Grant.

Off: Victoria Brill is no longer legislative assistant to Venice Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

Off: Catherine Thomson is no longer district secretary for Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell.

On: Marina Braynon-Moore is district secretary for West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones.

Off: Robyn Bryant is no longer district secretary for Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure.

Off and on: Sarah Goldman is replacing Ashley Overend as a legislative assistant for South Pasadena Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters. Goldman is now both LA and district secretary.

Off and on: Roger Castano became district secretary, Roberto Alvarez moved from district secretary to legislative assistant and Luis Callejas is no longer legislative assistant for Miami Beach Democratic Rep. David Richardson.

On: Krissy Kulavic is district secretary for Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues.

On: Jade Swaby became district secretary for Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw.

On: Ed Sol is returning as district secretary for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg. He earlier held the same position in 2017.

Off: Ian McConnell is no longer legislative assistant for Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano.

On: Jessica Porter is the new district secretary for Palm Harbor Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Off and on: Elizabeth Casimir is replacing Donntay Cooper as district secretary for Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson.

Trauma centers

Trauma drama continues as new law challenged

Part of a new Florida law touted as a way to end years of disputes over trauma centers is being challenged by a Miami-based hospital.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital filed a challenge in Leon County circuit court seeking an injunction to block a section of the law that would allow a competitor, Kendall Regional Medical Center, to operate what is known as a Level I trauma center.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital “is likely to suffer irreparable harm because any final approval of Kendall’s Level I status, and the significant damage flowing therefrom, cannot be undone,” attorneys for the facility wrote in the lawsuit filed Thursday.

The filing added that “given the importance of trauma centers, Florida’s regulation of a unified trauma system should place the needs of trauma victims and citizens over private corporate interests.”

With Kendall upgraded to a Level I trauma center, the lawsuit contends that pediatric patients will be diverted to Kendall instead of going to Nicklaus.

The children’s hospital argued that the portion of the new law is unconstitutional because the Legislature didn’t follow proper procedures when passing what Nicklaus contends is a “special law” or a narrowly targeted local law that benefits Kendall Regional Medical Center.

The Constitution requires that lawmakers provide advance notice to the public before they enact a special law or that a referendum be held for local voters to weigh in on the issue.

Attorneys also maintain that the law is unconstitutional because it unfairly benefits one private corporation, which is prohibited in the state Constitution.

Kendall Regional Medical Center is owned by the Hospital Corporation of America, or HCA, and is the only hospital that qualifies as a Level I trauma center under that section of the law. The challenge contends the law “impermissibly grants a ‘privilege to a private corporation’ that others do not receive and is therefore a constitutionally prohibited special law.”

In May 2016, the Florida Department of Health gave Kendall — which had been operating as a Level II trauma center — provisional authority to operate as a Level I trauma center. Nicklaus, which is part of the Miami Children’s Health System and has a pediatric trauma center, challenged the move that same month.

During the 2018 legislative session, Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, and other lawmakers tried to resolve long-standing disputes that have largely come as HCA has moved in recent years to open trauma centers at many of its hospitals. Among other things, the new law changed the number of trauma-service areas from 19 to 18 and put a new “need formula” in law for the approval of trauma centers. It passed the Legislature unanimously.

The provision in the law that concerns Nicklaus requires the state to provide Level I trauma status to any facility that had provisional Level I approval before January 2017 and had been operating as a Level I trauma center but had not received final verification by December 2017.

The law is “a special law that allows Kendall — and only Kendall — to automatically bypass in depth review, including a determination of need, and to receive the department’s final approval as a Level I trauma center without meeting the same requirements and standards, and undergoing the same approval process, as other hospitals,” the suit alleges.

Janet Cruz and Dana Young, SD 18

Janet Cruz raises a lot of money in first weeks of campaign for Senate but Dana Young raises more

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz nearly matched Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in April fundraising despite joining the Senate District 18 race 10 days into the month.

Cruz, a Tampa Democrat, said her April campaign and committee reports will show $146,600 in contributions for the 21 days she was a candidate last month, putting her just a few thousand dollars shy of Young’s $152,500 effort for the whole of April.

“We’re earning the support we need to win and get things done in the Florida Senate, including making healthcare more affordable, fully funding our public schools and teachers, and combating gun violence,” said Cruz. “We are strong out of the gate and just getting warmed up because the hard working people of Tampa deserve to have a voice in Tallahassee — and that hasn’t been the case recently.”

About $31,600 of the new money came in through Cruz’ campaign account. Its report is not yet viewable on the Florida Division of Elections website. The rest came in through her political committee, Building the Bay PC, which shows $117,700 in contributions.

The bulk of that cash came in through two $50,000 checks, one from political committee Florida For All, Inc. and another from Miami attorney Robert Rubenstein. Spending was minimal, with Democratic data firm NGP VAN receiving $2,700 of the $3,300 spent.

The committee finished the month with about $176,500 on hand including the $62,000 Cruz banked prior to launching her Senate campaign. Her campaign account also started with money in the bank due to her now-cancelled bid for Hillsborough County Commission. Cruz said those funds make for $271,000 in total fundraising, though she didn’t announce an overall cash-on-hand total.

While Cruz ceded little ground in her first month, she is far from matching Young’s overall totals of $1.45 million raised and $1.1 million on hand.

Young’s reports showed a near even split, with $79,544 raised for her campaign account and $73,000 raised for her political committee, Friends of Dana Young.

The campaign cash was spread across 131 contributions and included 60 checks for $1,000, the maximum contribution for state legislative campaigns. The committee donor roll was similar in compactness to her opponent’s, with a $35,000 check from beverage distributor Kent Bailey taking the top spot among seven contributions.

Campaign and committee spending totaled $16,422, including $5,500 on ad spending and a $5,000 check to Bascom Communications for consulting work and $3,600. Heading into May, Young had $802,000 in her committee account and $298,000 in her campaign account.

If Cruz keeps the funds rolling in SD 18 could turn into a major pickup for Florida Democrats, who see 2018 as an opportunity to break Republican’s grip on the state legislature. The Hillsborough-based district has 7,500 more registered Democratic voters than Republican, and it voted plus-5 for Hillary Clinton in 2018.

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. Nearly 10 percent of the remaining ballots were cast for businessman Joe Redner while no-party candidate Sheldon Upthegrove received 1 percent support.

Republican lawmakers earn high grades on Associated Industries’ report card

The Associated Industries of Florida on Tuesday released a report measuring how closely Florida lawmakers’ votes aligned with its interests.

The conservative business group’s 2018 Voting Records report found a slight uptick in lawmaker support for AIF-backed legislation, with 78 percent of the Senate and 91 percent of the House voting in favor of its priorities.

AIF also recognized five lawmakers – three in the Senate and two in the House – with “non-voting” awards for going above and beyond during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Our team goes to great lengths to ensure legislators are aware of AIF’s positions on issues of great importance to Florida’s business community. And, after every session, AIF compiles a record of success with our Voting Records” said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of AIF.

“We are proud to honor elected officials as Champions for Business – those lawmakers who take risks for his or her beliefs in the free-enterprise system, who defy the status quo when it’s harmful to our state’s competitive climate and who face down opponents to grow prosperity for Floridians.”

Though lawmakers scored higher marks in 2018 than years prior, the scorecard results don’t paint a complete picture of the session according to Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for AIF.

He explained that the focus shift brought about by the February mass shooting in Parkland “resulted in a slowed legislative process and fewer bills making it through to the end – the lowest number of bills passed since 2001.

“So while AIF’s Voting Records show more favorable outcomes for the business community compared to last year, it is important to note the political environment and the impact it had on the legislative process this year.”

The AIF report, now in its 43rd year, is a compilation of voting records based on committee, amendment and floor votes cast.

“Votes provide tangible evidence of whether a legislator supports the ability of Florida companies to prosper and operate free of overly burdensome state regulation and taxation,” Feeney said.

He went on to name AIF’s five 2018 Champions for Business: Republican Sens. Rob Bradley, Kathleen Passidomo and Dana Young, and Republican Reps. Joe Gruters and Mike Miller.

“Whether they proposed an important bill, authored a key amendment or toiled behind the scenes, these legislators are the ones who made a difference during the 2018 Legislative Session,” Feeney said.

Only Dana Young, who represents Tampa-based Senate District 18, has received the Champion designation in the past. AIF will present the Champions for Business awards to the lawmakers at its annual conference, to be held Sept. 12 through 14 in Orlando.

AIF also recognized another 33 members of the Florida House for achieving a 100 percent voting record for the 2018 Legislative Session.

“These lawmakers showed a commitment to sound policy that supports Florida’s employers and job creators. Not only does this score encompass votes to pass legislation beneficial to businesses, it includes votes to defeat policies that would have a detrimental impact on businesses and their employees.  We applaud all 38 lawmakers highlighted in our Voting Records for helping make Florida the best place to do business,” Feeney said.

The full list of 100 percenters: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Indialantic Rep. Thad Altman, Hialeah Rep. Bryan Avila, Bradenton Rep. Jim Boyd, Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, Jonesville Rep. Chuck Clemons, Altamonte Springs Rep. Bob Cortes, Orange Park Rep. Travis Cummings, Naples Rep. Bryon Donalds, DeFuniak Springs Rep. Brad Drake, Palm Bay  Rep. Randy Fine, Jacksonville Rep. Jason Fischer, Venice Rep. Julio Gonzalez, Stuart Rep. Gayle Harrell, Spring Hill Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, Winter Haven Rep. Sam Killebrew, St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa, Clearwater Rep. Chris Latvala, Daytona Beach Rep. Tom Leek, Port Richey Rep. Amber Mariano, Beverly Hills Rep. Ralph Massullo, Plant City Rep. Lawrence McClure, St. Petersburg Rep. Kathleen Peters, Sebring Rep. Cary Pigman, Ft. Walton Beach Rep. Mel Ponder, Lake City Rep. Elizabeth Porter, Valrico Rep. Jake Raburn, Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner, Palm Beach Gardens Rep. Rick Roth, Riverview Rep. Ross Spano, Ocala Rep. Charlie Stone, Royal Palm Beach Rep. Matt Willhite and Pace Rep. Jayer Williamson.

All recognized were Republicans except for Willhite, a Democrat.

Jeff Brandes holding St. Pete fundraiser today

Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes is holding a fundraiser Wednesday evening benefiting his Senate District 24 re-election campaign in St. Petersburg.

The event will be held at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House, 400 Beach Drive NE, starting at 5 p.m. Those looking to sneak in an RSVP before the fundraiser is in full swing can send a note to Rick Porter via Rick@PoliticalCaptitalFlorida.com or call him at 407-849-1112.

The host committee list on the invite features several high-profile Republican operatives and elected officials. Current lawmakers joining Brandes at the event include Tampa Sen. Dana Young and St. Petersburg Rep. Chris Sprowls.

The committee also includes numerous local pols such as former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, Pinellas GOP chair and HD 66 hopeful Nick DiCeglie and Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury. Former House Speaker Will Weatherford and former Gov. Bob Martinez will also be in attendance.

Brandes has been in the Senate since 2012 when he was elected to the pre-redistricting SD 22. He had been a member of the Florida House for the two years prior.

He didn’t face a Democratic opponent in the 2012 or 2016 cycles, and in 2014 he cruised to victory with a 16-point win over his Democratic challenger in the old District 22.

Democrats are making another play for SD 24 in 2018. At the beginning of the month, trial lawyer Carrie Pilon filed to challenge Brandes.

The Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory staff leaked her entry a couple of weeks early, giving Brandes the opportunity to make a statement on his March finance report. He did just that by plunking down $300,000 of his own money to bolster his campaign. He had $417,195 on hand heading into April.

SD 24 could end up being a swing district, though the advantage certainly belongs to Republicans.

The GOP has a 4-point advantage in voter registrations even though the seat voted for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008, and went plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Brandes’ invite is below.

Brandes fundraiser 4.25.18

Dana Young: Let’s get the medical marijuana licensing train rolling

Sen. Dana Young is pressing the Department of Health to ramp up efforts to issue more licenses for medical marijuana providers.

Young, a Tampa Republican, sent a letter to Office of Medical Marijuana Use director Christian Bax on Tuesday.

She referred to the state’s cracking the 100,000 mark last Friday – coincidentally on April 20, or 4/20 – in the number of registered medicinal cannabis patients.

Lawmakers, as well as patient and provider advocates, have been complaining about Florida’s supply of medicinal cannabis not keeping up with what they say is the burgeoning demand.

“Given the indisputable fact that patient demand for medical marijuana is quickly increasing, my strong recommendation is that the Department award the additional four contingent MMTC (medical marijuana treatment centers) licenses in the upcoming review cycle to be activated once the number of qualified patients reaches 200,000,” Young wrote.

Approved MMTCs currently number 13, with 34 retail locations across the state, state records show.

“Thus, the review for issuance of licenses for the 200,000 patient threshold would be done at the same time as the review for licenses to meet the initial 100,000 threshold,” Young said.

She added: “Based on information from my constituents and others interested in the success of Florida’s medical marijuana program, there are many interested and qualified applicants for these statutorily mandated additional MMTC licenses, ensuring that the current application cycle will have a sufficient number of strong candidates.”

(For those wondering, her campaign account reported a $1,000 contribution on March 30 from Surterra Texas, a medical cannabis company. Surterra also is licensed in Florida, with six dispensaries here. Young faces re-election this November against outgoing Democratic House Leader Janet Cruz, also of Tampa. Democrat Bob Buesing has said he’s dropping out of the race.)

But a Health Department spokesman last week noted that patients not only have to be registered to trigger additional licenses, but also “active” and “qualified,” according to state law.

That means they also must have a patient identification card, Devin Galleta said. As of last Friday’s tally, the number of “approved ID card applications” is only 75,208, with 2,935 more applications being processed.

Young has lambasted Bax before over the backlog of applications for both marijuana growing and dispensing licenses and state-issued patient ID cards. Bax, in turn, blamed delays, in part, on the number of lawsuits and administrative challenges over marijuana.

At a committee meeting last October, Young shot back, “I’m not buying it that because there’s litigation out there you can’t fulfill your statutory duty to issue these licenses.”

“The department is currently in the rulemaking process for the acceptance of new MMTC license applications,” Galleta said Tuesday. “We appreciate Sen. Young’s input into the process and will take her recommendation into consideration as we work to finalize the rule.”

The full text of the letter is here.

It’s on: ​Dana Young​’s​ fundraiser for Senate re-election​ is Tuesday​

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is holding a campaign kickoff fundraiser Tuesday for her re-election to Senate District 18.

Young’s event is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on April 24 at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club, 5320 Interbay Boulevard. Those looking to attend are encouraged to send an email to Kristin Lamb at Kristin@FLFSStrategies.com for more information or to RSVP.

The host committee for the event lists dozens of names, including several of Young’s colleagues in the Legislature. At the top of the invite are Senate President Designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes and Thonotosassa Sen. Tom Lee. Republican Reps. Jamie GrantShawn HarrisonJake Raburn and Jackie Toledo will also be in attendance.

Young spent three terms in the Florida House before she was elected to SD 18 in 2016. She won her first term with about 48 percent of the vote in a four-way race against Democrat Bob Buesing, who received 41 percent of the vote, and no-party candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove, who received 9.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Buesing filed for the seat again ahead of the 2018 contest, but now it looks like Young’s main challenge will come from House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, who filed for the seat Tuesday after weeks of speculation.

If Buesing were to back out, which he may, the Young v. Cruz head-to-head would be nearly guaranteed — Redner has said he’ll stay out of the contest this year and so far no other candidates have entered the race.

On the fundraising front, Young is the clear front-runner.

On Tuesday, her campaign announced that she had raised nearly $1.3 million for her re-election bid so far, with $950,000 in the bank. That sum includes $231,000 of hard money in her campaign account, with the rest in her supporting political committee, Friends of Dana Young.

Through the same date, Buesing had raised about $116,000 and had about $105,000 in the bank. Cruz had raised about $65,000 for a Hillsborough County Commission campaign before announcing she would run for SD 18.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Dana Young Fundraiser 4.24.2018

Bob Buesing exits SD 18 race, clearing way for Janet Cruz

Democrat Bob Buesing said Tuesday that he is ending his campaign to unseat Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young and throwing his support behind House Minority Leader Janet Cruz.

The Tampa attorney announced his exit to the South Tampa Democratic Club Tuesday evening, ending speculation of if or when he would step aside in favor of Cruz, who officially declared for Senate District 18 last week.

Buesing’s exit leaves only Cruz and Young in the race, which is a major target for Florida Democrats, who are expanding their map for the 2018 cycle.

Shortly after Buesing’s announcement, Cruz put out a statement thanking him.

“Bob Buesing is a gentleman. I appreciate his kind words and lifetime of work on behalf of children and families in Tampa Bay,” she said. “With his help we will flip this seat, expand access to affordable healthcare and early education, and ban assault weapons.”

Prior to Cruz’ entry, Buesing said his “goal has always been electing a Democrat to this seat who will serve the people of Hillsborough County well in Tallahassee.

“To that end, I announced my candidacy last January and have run a campaign based on the values and ideas that I believe represent the will of the people in this District. Should Janet Cruz decide to file then I will make the best decision for my friends, family, and the constituents of Senate District 18.”

Buesing was the 2016 Democratic nominee for the seat but found himself in a four-way race with Young, businessman Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove. Young won that race with 48 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent Buesing, 9.5 percent for Redner and 1 percent for Upthegrove.

The fact that Young won her 2-year term with a plurality has been a major talking point for the Buesing campaign since he opened his campaign account for a rematch at the beginning of the year.

Before Buesing’s entry, Redner told him he would not run again and would back his former rival in the race, though in a separate conversation with Florida Politics Redner questioned whether Buesing was the right candidate to run against Young.

Through the end of March, Buesing brought in $115,925 in campaign contributions, including $34,460 in his most recent campaign finance report. He had $105,000 in the bank at the end of last month.

Buesing told the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday that he planned to refund at least 80 percent of those contributions and encourage his donors to forward their dollars to Cruz’ campaign “or any of the wonderful Democratic candidates we have in the cycle.”

Not having a primary challenger helps, though Cruz will still need a major fundraising boost to be competitive against Young, who has $950,000 in the bank between her campaign and committee accounts in addition to the benefit of incumbency.

If the fundraising comes, SD 18 isn’t altogether unfavorable for Democrats. The district has 7,500 more registered Democratic voters than Republican, and it voted plus-5 for Hillary Clinton in 2018.

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