No. 11 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Janet Cruz

Cruz has the makings of dynastic influence in the region.

State Sen. Janet Cruz has, in her own right, proven to be a tireless and powerful advocate for Tampa Bay.

When you add to that her daughter is influential lobbyist Ana Cruz, the longtime partner of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, and her son is a local restaurateur, Cruz has the makings of dynastic influence in the region.

“With deep ties to the Tampa Bay region, Sen. Janet Cruz takes her passion for the local community to Tallahassee as a fierce advocate for change and the betterment of her constituents,” said Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting.

“She is a dedicated public servant who leads with her heart, and she has an unwavering determination to fight for what she believes is right. She does not shy away from the tough issues or complicated policy and manages conflict with grace, earning her respect from her colleagues. She is (rightly so) a prominent leader in the Tampa Bay area and within her party across the state.”

And Cruz has so far shown to use that might for good. Known as a fierce Democrat and cornerstone of the party’s presence in Tampa Bay, many of Cruz’s legislative successes transcend party politics. Cruz secured $7 million for Tampa projects in 2022. That includes $1 million for Tampa’s PURE water quality project, $950,000 for red tide mitigation efforts, almost $100,000 for spring restoration, a $2.6 million investment in the 22nd Ave./Selmon Expressway interchange requested by the City of Tampa, and $2.6 million for Help Me Grow Florida, a program aimed at identifying and addressing developmental and/or behavioral concerns in children from birth to age 14 and through high school. She also secured $750,000 for education on abandoned Black cemeteries in schools.

Cruz, along with Rep. Fentrice Driskell in the House, helped champion the formation of a task force on abandoned Black cemeteries and drafted legislation based on the task force’s recommendations.

“There is no bigger fighter for Tampa Bay and the Sunshine State up in Tallahassee than Sen. Janet Cruz,” said Ashley Bauman, senior vice president of communications firm Mercury. “Whether she’s working to get the lead out of our kid’s drinking fountains, cutting red tape at the Clerk of Court’s office by doing away with archaic processes, or expanding educational access for disabled veterans, you can count on Sen. Cruz to work around the clock for you.”

The real-world impact of her bills has also benefited military families. She successfully passed legislation this year that would make it easier for military spouses to get work licenses.

Cruz dropped three spots on the list from No. 8 last year to No. 11 this year. But she has a long history of strength across Florida’s political landscape. Cruz was elected to the House in a 2010 Special Election and again in the 2010 General Election. She held the seat until running for Senate in 2018, leading the party as minority leader while in the House. She eked by Republican Dana Young to win her Senate seat in 2018. The race triggered a mandatory recount, resulting in Cruz being the only Democrat to flip a Senate seat in 2018.

Joe Henderson’s take: Democrats often feel hopelessly outnumbered in Tallahassee, but Cruz never backs down from a fight. As the mother of a gay daughter, Cruz put up a valiant fight against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill championed by Republican culture warriors.


As for methodology, we define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

We define a politician as being in office or running for office.

Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician one point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.

Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2022 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, Ricky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Evan Donovan of WFLA, Joe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Joe Henderson, Todd Josko of Ballard Partners, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, Patrick Manteiga, publisher of LaGaceta, Seth McKeel of The Southern Group, Jennifer Motsinger, EVP of Tampa Bay Builders Association, Mitch Perry of Charter News, Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


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