Dana Young Archives - Page 6 of 43 - Florida Politics

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.

Jackie Toledo holding April 26 campaign kickoff

Freshman Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo is holding a kickoff event for her House District 60 re-election campaign April 26 in Tampa.

The fundraiser will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Byblos Café, 2832 S. MacDill Ave. Those looking to attend can RSVP by sending an email to Lynnette Russell at lprussell5@gmail.com.

The host committee for the fundraiser lists a number of Tampa Bay area Republican officials, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister and Tampa Sen. Dana Young. Also on the list is House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva.

Toledo is running against Democrat Debra Bellanti for a second term in the coastal Hillsborough County District.

After $2,750 raised and $16,500 spent in March, the Tampa Republican’s campaign account has $71,300 banked. Bellanti, who filed shortly after New Year’s, has raised a total of $18,412, with $8,200 on hand at the end of March.

HD 60 voted narrowly for Donald Trump in the 2016 race, though Toledo easily bested Democratic attorney David Singer on Election Day.

The fundraiser invite is below.

toledo, jackie - 4.26 invite

Electoral map scrambles race for Senate presidency

For the first time this decade, a race to one day lead the Florida Senate is not confined to an intra-party scrum among Republican lawmakers.

And while Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo is now the slight front-runner to hold the gavel beginning in 2022, she and her GOP colleagues must first navigate two election cycles in which control of the Senate could be at stake.

Passidomo is emerging as the leading candidate to succeed Senate President-designate Bill Galvano and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson after Tampa Republican Dana Young declared that she would not pursue the Senate presidency. That left Passidomo and St. Augustine Republican Travis Hutson as the two contenders for the position.

Based on not-for-attribution conversations with at least four members of the 2016 class of the Florida Senate, other Senators, and key staff and lobbyists close to Passidomo, Hutson, Galvano, and Simpson, it appears that Passidomo holds a one-  or two-vote lead over Hutson within the nine-member class of Republicans.

In addition to Passidomo, Hutson, and Young, the other Republican members of the 2016 class are Dennis Baxley, Doug Broxson, George Gainer, Debbie Mayfield, Keith Perry and Greg Steube.

Steube is exiting the Senate to run for Congress, so he’s not part of the math here.

Almost all of those tracking the race peg the vote at 5 to 3 for Passidomo with Baxley, Broxson, Gainer and Young behind her. Hutson can count on the support of Perry and Mayfield.

The consensus that Passidomo is leading the race gelled last week when Senate leaders and elite-level lobbyists raised money for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee at a series of events in Nashville. According to an itinerary obtained by Florida Politics, lawmakers were treated to a private concert by Phil Vassar at the Loveless Barn and a songwriters luncheon at the famous Bluebird Cafe.

With the twang of country music in the background, a handful of Senators and other Adams Street players talked openly about two factors driving the race in Passidomo’s direction.

The first is Young bowing out of the race and squarely backing Passidomo. Sources close to both Passidomo and Young say that the Tampa Republican has, indeed, signed a pledge card for Passidomo.

The second factor has a tinge of post hoc ergo propter hoc, specifically that since Hutson was not able to win his own class, he could not win the race at large.

“If you can’t even win your own class, your butt has no business being up there [in the president’s rostrum],” said one member aligned with Passidomo, who asked to speak without attribution so as to provide clearer insight into the workings of the Senate.

Hutson has told a handful of Republican lobbyists and donors that he expects the contest between him and Passidomo to be a “long slog” and may involve the votes of members from the incoming class of Senators.

However, Hutson’s position runs counter to what President-designate Galvano and Leader Simpson have reportedly told other members. Fearing a repeat of the kind of race between President Joe Negron and Jack Latvala, which divided the chamber for years, the incoming leaders want the matter settled before the November elections.

This said, Galvano and Simpson are both said to want to be careful about not interfering in the Passidomo vs. Hutson contest. They, like other Senators, prefer not to openly discuss leadership races other than to note that the Senate conducts its business differently than the Florida House, which has endured back-to-back internal conflicts about who will lead the chamber after Jose Oliva.

Yet what is really concerning Galvano, Simpson, and other GOP members is not which Republican will follow them, but whether it will even be a Republican.

With Lantana Democrat Lori Berman‘s unsurprising win Tuesday night in a special election for a seat in the Florida Senate, the chamber is now divided 23 to 16 between Republicans and Democrats.

As previously reported on Florida Politics, state Democrats are systematically laying out a plan to recapture the upper chamber. They hope to win at least four of seven battleground seats on the ballot in 2018.

To that end, Rep. Janet Cruz has entered the race for SD 18, where she will try to pick off Young and trial lawyer Carrie Pilon has filed to challenge incumbent Jeff Brandes in SD 24. The party likes its chances with the campaigns of Kayser Enneking and Bob Doyel, two first-time candidates challenging Republican incumbents Keith Perry and Kelli Stargel, respectively.

It is also recruiting former state Rep. Amanda Murphy to run for the open seat in Senate District 16, once held by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala and Alex Penelas, the former mayor of Miami-Dade County, to run for SD 36, where Republican Rene Garcia is term-limited.

On Wednesday, Democrats were relieved to learn that Jose Javier Rodriguez will remain in SD 37, giving the party a better shot of funding those campaigns.

Even if Democrats fall short of winning control of the Florida Senate, the results in these competitive seats could impact Passidomo vs. Hutson (assuming Passidomo doesn’t have the race locked-up by November. If Perry loses his re-election bid, Passidomo would have a hammer-lock on the contest, but her chances could be hurt if Young were to lose.

All the more reason for Passidomo to conclude her business by the summer.

Dana Young has $950K on hand for SD 18 re-election

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young said Tuesday that she’s raised nearly $1.3 million for her Senate District 18 re-election bid and has $950,000 in the bank.

“I am truly honored by the overwhelming support I have received for my re-election campaign for State Senate District 18,” Young said in a press release. “I look forward to continuing to meet with voters throughout our community and share my message of ensuring that Florida remains a great place to live, work and play by keeping taxes low, making education affordable and accessible, and by preserving and protecting our environmental resources.”

“We have a long road ahead of us, but we could not be starting off on a better foot, and I thank our supporters for this strong step forward.”

Young’s March haul measured in at $46,000 for the campaign and $36,000 for her affiliated political committee, Friends of Dana Young, for a total of $82,000 raised last month.

Topping the donor roll was Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, a political committee chaired by Ryan Tyson. It gave $20,000 to Young’s committee, followed by Teco Energy with a $10,000 check. A committee tied to Ocala Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley chipped in $4,000.

The campaign account took in 52 contributions, including 41 for the campaign maximum of $1,000. It also received $25,000 worth of “in-kind” support from the Republican Party of Florida, which provided polling and research.

Young’s announcement came shortly after Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz announced she would challenge Young for the Hillsborough County-based seat in the fall.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing, the 2016 Democratic nominee, is also in the race, though he may opt to step aside in order to give Cruz a clear path to the general election.

Janet Cruz

Janet Cruz makes it official: She’s running for Florida Senate

It’s official: House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz will challenge Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young in Senate District 18.

The Tampa native announced her bid Tuesday. She joins, for now at least, Tampa attorney Bob Buesing in the Democratic Primary.

“I’m running because Tampa Bay families deserve a leader who will fight for them in Tallahassee — not sell them out to big donors. Our teachers, nurses, moms, dads, small business owners and working families are the backbone of our community and they deserve a State Senator who will always put them first,” Cruz said in a news release.

“I love our community and I am fed up with lawmakers who put the interests of the NRA, the for-profit school industry, and insurance companies before the people they represent. Under Republican leadership, this Legislature has continuously underfunded our public schools, focused on creating low wage jobs that leave working families in a cycle of poverty, and given away millions of taxpayer dollars to insurance companies while health insurance costs for working families skyrocket.”

The announcement, particularly the bit on the NRA, confirms one line of attack on Young will be her vote against an assault weapons ban — added after roll call — in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Young’s no vote on the ban has already been used against her by Buesing, and those close to the Cruz camp have said over the past few weeks that the vote, and the shooting itself, were pivotal in convincing Cruz to challenge the incumbent lawmaker.

“Florida deserves better. I’m proud of my record of standing against disastrous policies that have led to our children feeling unsafe in their schools and an economy that only works for the very wealthy — leaving more and more Floridians behind. I have voted again and again to fully fund public education, keep housing costs low, and protect our access to clean air and water,” Cruz continued.

“The Floridians who have been making their voices heard across our state, from the Women’s March to the incredible students from Parkland, deserve true allies in their elected officials and I will proudly carry their fight with me back to Tallahassee.”

Cruz has been linked to a possible Senate District 18 campaign for weeks — Minority Leader Oscar Braynon not only acknowledged her aspirations last month but said he’d been encouraging her to file. Sources close Cruz and the Senate Democratic leadership gave the rumor a signal boost on Monday when they said her announcement was imminent.

Since news of Cruz’ interest broke, there’s been a lot of chatter surrounding the future of Buesing’s campaign. Some close to the Florida Democratic Party’s senate campaign arm said he would exit the race to give Cruz a clear path to the general election ballot.

Buesing issued a statement addressing the rumor but didn’t deny it.

“My goal has always been electing a Democrat to this seat who will serve the people of Hillsborough County well in Tallahassee,” he said last week. “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.”

Now that Cruz has filed, Buesing has a decision to make.

A Senate bid wasn’t always the path for Cruz’ political future.

Instead of looking to extend her career as a lawmaker, she set up a campaign for the District 1 seat on the Hillsborough County Commission.

Now that she’s made her decision, she’ll have to hit the ground running to catch up to Young on the fundraising front.

Through the end of February, Young had $189,000 in her campaign account and $711,000 in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young. March brought the two accounts another $82,000 and she now has a combined $964,000 in the bank.

Cruz has about $61,000 on hand in her County Commission campaign account. Buesing, by the same date, had about $79,000 in the bank.

If the fundraising comes, SD 18 isn’t altogether unfavorable for Democrats. The district has 11,000 more registered Democratic voters than Republican, and it voted plus-5 for Hillary Clinton in 2018 and

No change of plans (yet) from Bob Buesing

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young could see one re-election challenger swapped for another, according to sources close to the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm.

Young currently faces Tampa attorney Bob Buesing, who finished second in the four-way race for Senate District 18 in the 2016 cycle, and there are rumors he’s agreed to step aside to make way for Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz.

In a statement to Florida Politics, Buesing neither confirmed nor denied he’d exit the race, instead saying he’d wait on Cruz to make a move.

“My goal has always been electing a Democrat to this seat who will serve the people of Hillsborough County well in Tallahassee,” he said. “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.”

Florida Politics reported last week that Cruz had spoken to Democratic leaders about making a run in SD 18 and was received positively – Minority Leader Oscar Braynon said he’d been supportive of Cruz entering the race since Democrats flipped SD 40 with the election of Annette Taddeo late last year.

She also reached out to Buesing last week, asking him to step aside to avoid a costly Democratic primary, and it seems that the conversation went well, according to sources with knowledge of the discussion.

Before Florida Democrats started eyeing more Senate seats in the 2018 cycle, Cruz had filed to run for the Hillsborough County Commission seat held by term-limited Republican Sandy Murman.

That seat is still listed to come up in the 2020 cycle, but Cruz would’ve likely been on the 2018 ballot if Murman did the expected and vacated the seat early to run for the countywide District 7 seat in the fall.

But SD 18 is looking more likely by the day.

When Young won election to the Senate in 2016, she received 48 percent of the vote, followed by Buesing at 41 percent, businessman Joe Redner at 9 percent and Sheldon Upthegrove at 1 percent.

Buesing has pointed to that spread as evidence he’d have a slugger’s chance in a head-to-head rematch – Redner already said he’s not planning another run and would instead back Buesing.

Cruz certainly brings more name recognition to the table than Buesing – her HD 62 seat is fully within SD 18 and she’s held it for 8 years – so that could give her a leg up over Buesing if she and Young are the only names on the ballot in the fall.

The other half of the equation is fundraising, and Cruz has a lot of catching up to do.

Through the end of February, Young had $189,000 in her campaign account and $711,000 in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young.

Cruz has about $61,000 on hand in her County Commission campaign account. Buesing, through the same date, had about $79,000 in the bank.

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