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Former State Rep. Janet Cruz declares victory despite imminent recount.

Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She officially declared victory the day after the election.

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

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

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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