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Gabrielle Giffords gun safety group backs Janet Cruz for Senate

Giffords, a gun safety advocacy group, is backing outgoing House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz in the Senate District 18 race against incumbent Republican Dana Young.

The group was founded by Democratic former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, who survived an attempted assassination by a gunman in 2011. She was shot in the head and recovered; six others were killed and 18 injured.

The endorsement will likely come with some additional ad buys. The group uses a mixture of television and digital advertising to defeat politicians who work against gun reform.

“America experienced three of the deadliest mass shootings in modern history in just the past year. Over 38,000 people in our country were killed by a gun in 2016,” Giffords said.

“Florida has suffered from this crisis: somebody is killed by a gun in Florida every 3 hours. Despite this devastating reality, the gun lobby continues to use its cash and influence to try and stop state legislatures from passing laws to make our schools, streets, and communities safer.”

Cruz frequently criticizes Young on her voting record on guns. Young has an A rating from the National Rifle Association, which grades lawmakers based on their positions and voting records on pro and anti-gun issues. 

The two are in a heated contest for the Tampa Senate district.

“Families don’t want to arm teachers with weapons, they want our educators to be armed with higher salaries,” Cruz campaign manager Tim Wagner said. “Dana Young walked away from a critical vote that would have kept families safer by banning military-style assault weapons.”

Young says “no parent should have to worry about their children when they send them to school. This year we passed a bill to provide historic mental health and security resources in our schools, but there is so much more work to be done.

“I’ll never back down from keeping our schools safe.”

Young voted in favor of the school safety bill this legislative session that increased funding for mental health services and provided additional armed security for schools. It also increased the age a person can purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. The bill did not include a ban on assault weapons many gun control advocates had called for.

The school safety bill does allow highly trained teachers like former members of the military to carry firearms in school with the proper certification.

The gun issue came up during a Tiger Bay event last month in which both candidates blasted the other on gun issues. Young claimed Cruz was the one ignoring student safety because she put politics above policy when she voted against the school safety bill.

Lindsay Cross cuts pro-environment ad, already taping another

Democrat Lindsay Cross is launching a new ad this week in her bid for Senate District 24 that touts her commitment to the environment.

The ad, entitled “It’s Time” shows images of Cross at various local waterfront locations, as well as a photo of her working as an environmental scientist.

“Florida’s water and natural environment are under attack,” Cross begins the 15-second ad. “It’s time for a state senator that will fight to protect our water supply and environment and as your next state senator that’s exactly what I will do.”

Cross, a Democrat, is running against Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes for the SD 24 seat covering most of St. Petersburg and the Pinellas Gulf Beaches. Cross has criticized Brandes for voting to reduce funding for environmental protection.

Cross frequently references a 2011 bill Brandes voted for that capped the funds Water Management Districts can collect to perform their duties.

Meanwhile, Cross has nabbed backing from environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Florida Conservation Voters.

Cross announced Tuesday she’s taping another ad that will air on cable and social media later this week. She didn’t go into details about what the ad will address, but she was filming at Pass-a-Grille Beach, which she described as one of her favorites, implying the topic may again be the environment.

Cross could also mention red tide. The bacteria bloom is killing tons of fish, which are washing on shore and keeping visitors from the beach. The smell and toxic air make beach going a no-no for the time being.

Conditions have improved in recent weeks, but some beaches are still experiencing problems.

Democrats have been blaming Republicans, particularly Gov. Rick Scott, for the severity of this year’s bloom arguing environmental deregulation has led to increased dirty discharges into the Bay and other waterways.

Red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but some argue pollution worsened it.

Cross is at a disadvantage against Brades. As the incumbent, Brandes comes with broad name recognition and fundraising prowess. The Republican has out-raised Cross by well over double.

Still, Cross is waging quite the social media campaign. Ads are all over Facebook and even in pop-up ads on mobile gaming applications.

She regularly posts on Facebook with her daily campaign activities and canvasses almost every day.

Cross entered the race late after the former Democratic candidate, Carrie Pilon, bowed out to tend to family health matters.


Cross Bay Ferry returns with Nov. 1 launch date

Cross Bay Ferry is coming back. 

The service between downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa launches November 1 with two new docking locations, officials overseeing the program announced Tuesday.

The service will dock in the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg closer to the historic Renaissance Vinoy hotel. The previous dock in the Pelican Parking lot next to the St. Pete History museum is no longer an option because of construction on the new pier.

The ferry will also have a new docking location in Tampa. It will arrive and depart from space next to the Florida Aquarium. That new location gives passengers easier access to downtown Tampa amenities like Sparkman Wharf, Amalie Arena, the Tampa Bay History Center and the Tampa Riverwalk.

The ferry previously docked at the Tampa Convention Center.

The ferry pilot ran for six months between November and April 2016 and 2017. It did not come back the next year due to a lack of funding. Spearheaded by the city of St. Pete, this year all four previous funding partners again agreed to fund another six-month, seasonal service. The cities of St. Pete and Tampa, as well as Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, each contributed $150,000 to support the service.

The governments paid $350,000 each for the 2016/17 pilot. The cost went down because revenue exceeded expectations.

“Ever since the first season finished, people have asked me when the ferry will return, and I’m thrilled to say the answer is November 1,” said St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, an original backer of the ferry project. “The ferry provides a fun, fast and efficient way to connect two great cities across the water.”

The new service has reduced fares and extended operating hours.

Fares will be $8 for adults, $3 for children 5-18 and free for children under 5. The service will also have discounted fares for seniors, veterans, active duty military and college students.

The ferry is a sister ship of the original boat used. It’s the same make and model and still accommodates up to 149 passengers.

As it was during the pilot, snacks and beverages including beer and wine will be available on board.

The Cross-Bay Ferry will run Tuesday through Sunday, with new, late-evening runs so people can enjoy both cities. For instance, people from Tampa can take a 5:30 p.m. run to St. Petersburg, have dinner and take a 10 p.m. boat back to Tampa. Similarly, people in St. Petersburg can take a 4 p.m. run to Tampa to see a hockey game and catch an 11 p.m. boat back home. Advance ticket sales begin about one week before the maiden voyage on November 1.

Ed Hooper rakes in corporate cash for SD 16 bid

Former state Rep. Ed Hooper grew his campaign and committee coffers to more than $900,000 during the most recent campaign finance reporting period, covering Sept. 29-Oct. 5.

The Republican state Senate candidate’s fundraising more than doubles his opponent’s: Amanda Murphy’s campaign and affiliated committees together have brought in $393,000.

Hooper’s campaign raised $48,000 during the latest reporting period. His committee, Friends of Ed Hooper, raised $13,000.

The two candidates are facing off in a battle to replace former state Sen. Jack Latvala in Senate District 16. He resigned earlier this year amid sexual misconduct allegations.

SD 16 covers parts of Pasco and Pinellas counties, including Clearwater, Dunedin, New Port Richey, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor.

Fundraising trends between the two campaigns mirror that of other state matchups where Republicans are far out-raising their Democratic candidates.

Democrats, including Murphy, are raising funds locally through smaller dollar gifts while Republicans are relying on special interests and outside groups for high-dollar contributions.

Hooper raked in money from the pharmaceutical industry with giants like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb making large-dollar contributions to his campaign.

Hooper also received cash from entities affiliated with Walt Disney World, beer distributors and the auto manufacturing and sales industry.

Hooper’s campaign brought in 65 individual contributions during the latest reporting period, with those averaging $738 each.

Meanwhile, most of Murphy’s contributions came from Tampa Bay area residents. Her campaign received 54 contributions averaging $352 each.

Murphy tapped contributions from teacher’s and ironworker’s unions and the Flippable Florida Victory Fund created to push the so-called “blue wave.”

Hooper spent $15,000 this report with most of that going to Direct Mail Systems for campaign mailers. His committee did not report any recent expenses.

Murphy spent $19,000 this report with $17,000 of that going to Tallahassee-based VancoreJones Communications for consulting. Her committee spent $39,000, but not for campaigning activity. The fund made payouts to other groups including Emily’s List, Flippable Florida Victory Fund and Sensible Gun Laws Now.

Hooper had a combined $421,000 banked at the end of the reporting period, while Murphy had a relatively lean $55,540 banked between her three accounts.

Murphy lost her previously held House district by fewer than 700 votes to now-Republican Rep. Amber Mariano. The race was considered a huge loss for Democrats despite the narrow majority in a district that went against Hillary Clinton in 2016 by double digits.

Hooper left the house to run for Pinellas County Commission in 2014. He lost to Democrat Pat Gerard.

The race is considered competitive. A St. Pete Polls survey in June put the race at 47-45 percent with Hooper holding the advantage, though his edge falls within the poll’s 3 percentage point margin of error.

SD 16 is, however, a “red” district. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the district’s electorate while Democrats account for about a third. The district went plus-12 for Trump in 2016.

Linda Jack TV ad

Linda Jack hits Amber Mariano for ‘failed representation’ in new ad

New Port Richey Democrat Linda Jack is out with a new ad hammering Republican Rep. Amber Mariano in her quest to flip Pasco County’s House District 36 back into the Democratic column.

The ad, titled “Better Leadership for West Pasco,” says Mariano has come up short in fulfilling the promises she made during her successful ouster of former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy two years ago.

“Amber Mariano promised to prioritize education, she promised to provide millions of dollars for flood relief, she promised to represent us. West Pasco deserves better leadership,” the ad narrator says, over a title card reading “failed leadership.”

The ad then shifts focus to Jack, a musician, educator and veterinarian who has been campaigning for the state House since June of 2017.

“I’m Linda Jack, and as a veterinarian people trust me to work hard, solve complex problems and do my very best to help,” she says in the ad. “I’ll be honored to serve as your next representative. Let’s work together to make West Pasco better than ever.”

Jack’s campaign didn’t say what kind of media buy was backing up the ad, though the Facebook Ad Archive confirms the 30-second spot has been running on the social media platform since Oct. 10 and has gathered between 10,000 and 50,000 impressions.

“Amber Mariano has failed us,” Jack said in announcing the ad. “She barely won in 2016 by promising she’d do the right thing for Pasco. I’m hearing a lot of buyers’ remorse around the district.

“Tallahassee is badly broken, and Amber Mariano has gladly joined the party,” she continued. “When our education system is failing, red tide is destroying our coast, and homeowners are left without protection all because politicians won’t keep their promises — it’s obvious we need a change.”

HD 36 covers the entire coast of Pasco County, including the communities of Hudson, Bayonet Point, New Port Richey, Beacon Square and Holiday.

Before Mariano became the youngest person ever elected to the Florida House two years ago, HD 36 was held by Murphy for three years. That election came down to 691 votes, and was considered an upset to some despite the district voting overwhelmingly for Trump.

Prior to Murphy the seat was held by Republican Mike Fasano, who is now Pasco’s Tax Collector. He crossed party lines to endorse Murphy in the 2013 special election to replace him.

The ad is below.

Dana Young

Dana Young’s fundraising lead grows to $1.6 million over Janet Cruz

When it comes to fundraising, state Sen. Dana Young continues to outperform her Democratic opponent in the race for the Senate District 18 seat in Tampa.

Young has raised about $2.6 million between her political committee and general campaign fund, $1.6 million more than outgoing House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz.

Young raised $70,000 for her general campaign fund during the latest reporting period covering Sept. 29-Oct. 5. She raised $137,500 in her Friends of Dana Young political committee.

Cruz raised a little over $15,000 for her campaign during the latest reporting period and $32,500 in her political committee, Building Tampa Bay. She’s brought in about $1 million in both funds to date with $369,000 raised in her campaign fund.

The latest contribution reports show a marked difference in fundraising strategies between the two campaigns. Young is getting high-dollar contributions from large corporations and special interest groups, including from the pharmaceutical industry.  

Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb, Sunovion, Biogen and AstraZeneca have all contributed to Young’s campaign.

During the latest campaign reporting period, Young brought in 84 individual contributions averaging $833 each. The maximum contribution to an individual campaign is $1,000.

Cruz brought in 304 individual contributions averaging $50 each. Her contributions flowed in from mostly out-of-state donors. Exactly 75 percent of Cruz’s campaign contributions during the latest reporting period came from individual donors, companies and groups from outside Florida.

That outsized support from out-of-state donors hints at the importance of the Young vs. Cruz matchup on a national scale for Democrats. The race is one of many across the U.S. seen as a way to flip legislative seats.

Spending was fairly quiet for both candidates this reporting period: Young spent just under $16,500. Of that, $13,000 went to Florida Finance Strategies, a Tallahassee-based political consulting group. She paid $2,500 to Bascom Communications, which is running her local campaign.

Cruz spent about $11,000, including $7,400 to Capitol Promotions, a Pennsylvania-based yard sign and campaign promotional item maker. She paid $720 to the Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay for advertising, $1,278 to NGP Van Inc. for campaign technology including social media and fundraising strategy and $328 to Orbitz, presumedly for campaign-related travel.

The two candidates are in a heated campaign battle. A September poll put Young three points ahead of Cruz, but that’s within the margin of error.

The district has a slight Republican advantage. It went plus-six for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but elected Young with a plurality of the vote in a four-way race.

Jeff Brandes is sitting on a gold mine compared to challenger, Lindsay Cross

State Senator Jeff Brandes continues to grow his fundraising lead over his Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross, making the already steep climb even more treacherous. Between his campaign and an affiliated political committee, Brandes has raised more than $2 million to keep his seat.

Cross has raised just $156,000 and does not have a political committee.

Brandes’ political might and well-connected stature in political circles are clear in his continued campaign hauls.

Brandes’ political committee raised $13,500 this report including $5,000 from the medical marijuana company Surterra, $5,000 from the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, $2500 from Florida Right Solutions, a political action committee chaired by conservative strategist Marc Reichelderfer and $1000 from the skin care practice Dermazone Solutions.

Brandes raised more than $40,000 for his campaign fund from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5, the most recent campaign reports available. That includes a $27,000 in-kind contribution from the Florida Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Major donors included Surterra, Realtor’s Political Advocacy Committee, the People’s Trust PAC, Johnson & Blanton, Johnson & Associates, Florida Right Solutions, Florida Home Builders Association ION PAC, Duke Energy PAC, Covanta Energy, and American Fire Sprinkler Association.

Brandes brought in just five contributions from donors in the Tampa Bay region.

Not including in-kind contributions, Brandes brought in 17 individual contributions averaging $824 each. The maximum contribution allowable is $1,000.

Cross raised $17,000 during the latest reporting period from 101 individual contributions averaging $168 each. She received five out-of-state contributions from Elizabeth Williams in New Mexico, Elizabeth Lyman in Maine, Jill Cranberry in Colorado, Megan Caroll in California and Joy Bartholomew in Maryland.

Brandes’ spending slowed down this month. He doled out $4,800 including $3,500 to Political Capital for consulting services and $1,100 to Extensive Enterprises for advertising. Extensive Enterprises publishes this website.

Meanwhile, Cross hasn’t spent anything recently. Since the inception of her campaign, Cross paid $20,000 to Washington D.C.-based 76 Words for media buys and $6,300 to Resonance Campaigns, a Democratic digital media firm.

She’s spent a total of $36,000 to date.

Cross entered the race at a disadvantage. She replaced Carrie Pilon after the former candidate bowed out due to sudden health issues arose with a family member. That gave Cross a late start in the campaign.

Despite being the fundraising underdog, the Cross campaign is hitting the campaign trail with ferocity. The team is spreading a message based on environmental policy, education reform that does not prioritize school choice programs, transportation and health care, among others. She said her message is resonating with voters thirst for a change in Tallahassee.

Kathleen Peters endorses Ray Blacklidge as her successor

State Rep. Kathleen Peters is endorsing Ray Blacklidge as her successor in House District 69, Blacklidge announced Monday.

Peters and Blacklidge are both Republicans. Blacklidge is running against Democrat Jennifer Webb for the seat covering west St. Petersburg and parts of mid-west Pinellas County.

Peters is not seeking re-election because she’s running for Pinellas County Commission to replace the late John Morroni who lost a long battle with cancer earlier this year.

“Ray Blacklidge is a solid leader I’m proud to endorse,” said Peters. “His background in the private sector and strong history of service to our community make him perfectly poised to be an effective voice for Pinellas County in Tallahassee. I am confident that he will serve us well, carry on my political agenda, and I urge all District 69 voters to support him.”

Blacklidge is an insurance industry executive and attorney who is running on a conservative platform that aligns with much of what Peters championed in her six years serving in the Florida Legislature.

Peters pushed a pro-business agenda in the house and supported school choice programs in K-12 education — both platforms Blacklidge supports.

However, Peters also brought some bipartisan priorities to the House including her stalwart efforts to increase mental health access to residents. Blacklidge says he supports mental health reform, particularly as it related to school safety.

During a recent campaign forum, Blacklidge said the answer to thwarting rampant school shootings was to increase mental health access, not by increasing gun regulation.

“I’m honored to have Representative Peters’s support,” Blacklidge said. “She has been an effective legislator for our area, and I look forward to continuing to work with her to provide our communities with effective and responsive representation.”

Peters’ district is a mostly even split between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans make up 36 percent of the district while Democrats account for 35 percent. Independents and other minor parties account for 29 percent of the district.

The district voted plus-3 for Donald Trump in 2016.

A recent poll has Webb leading Blacklidge by 15 points.

David Straz comes out with four early endorsements for Tampa Mayor

Tampa philanthropist David Straz nabbed four endorsements from a business group and three workers unions, the Tampa Mayoral candidate announced Monday.

The Northwest Florida Chapter of Black Women in Construction, United Food and Commercial Workers 1625, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 487, District 925 and Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 123 have all offered their nod to Straz, whose name graces downtown Tampa’s performing arts center.

“I’ve been meeting with groups across the city, and I’m humbled to receive the early endorsements of these organizations,” Straz said. “When I meet with these groups, I speak from the heart about my desire to make Tampa a better, stronger place to live, start and run a business and raise a family.”

The four groups cited Straz’s work ethic and character as two of the defining reasons they chose to back him in the crowded mayor’s race.

“David Straz has a commitment to the people of Tampa that is unsurpassed and inspiring. Job creation and growth along with citywide improvements in areas where the residents need it most are a few of the priorities David communicated to us. We feel that David Straz has the experience, work ethic and vision needed to move Tampa forward,” said Todd Vega, business manager of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 123.

Straz has poured more than $1.5 million into his own campaign coffers and has spent a decent chunk of that on television ad buys introducing himself to voters as more than just a philanthropist.

The introduction to voters on issues will be a crucial endeavor for Straz who admittedly voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

The city of Tampa has historically favored Democratic mayoral candidates. Straz joined the Democratic Party in late April after announcing he was running to succeed incumbent Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He’s also since said he regrets voting for Trump and would not do so again.

Former Hillsborough Democratic Party Executive Director Mark Hanisee is running Straz’s campaign. Hanisee left his post with the local party to take the job with Straz.

Though Hanisee is a well known skilled fundraiser — he started with the Hillsborough party to raise funds after being voted out of office in Pinellas County — Straz has said he won’t accept contributions more than $500. As of the most recent campaign finance filings, Straz has held true to that promise.

Straz prides himself as a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” sort of candidate having built his fortune in the banking industry.

“We know David Straz will be a tremendous leader and steward of the working class. We offer our full endorsement and support to David Straz because of his honest character and incredible vision for the City of Tampa,” said Jim Junecko, business agent for IUOE Local 487.

At age 75, Straz also lacks the future political ambition other younger candidates in the race might have.

“We were very impressed with David Straz because he loves the City of Tampa and is not using the mayor’s office as a steppingstone to higher office,” Ed Chambers, president of UFCW Local 1625 said.

Straz will take on former Tampa Chief of Police Jane Castor, Tampa City Council members Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, small business coach Topher Morrison and community activist LaVaughn King.

Dana Young bets on personal touch to keep swing seat

A steep staircase leads to Dana Young’s quaint Hyde Park campaign office. The space isn’t striking, but it doesn’t need to be.

She points out that call station cubicles had been installed by the previous tenant, an added bonus for the temporary investment.

Young, a Republican state Senator seeking re-election in 2018, says she wasn’t expecting a challenge from Janet Cruz, her Democratic opponent who’s helmed nearby state House districts for the past eight years.

It’s a surprising but familiar political trial for Young. She says she’s well-equipped to do the same thing she did two years ago, when she carried the swing seat by nearly seven points while Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finished plus-five in the same area.

How’s that? By walking and talking to voters, one door at a time.

After crowding around a conference table, volunteers and campaign staffers split ways to canvass different parts of Senate District 18, which reaches from South Tampa’s peninsula to the northern border of Hillsborough County.

It’s Saturday morning, and the cool October weather is a reprieve for the team that’s been knocking on doors since May. Young — who grew up hunting and fishing and displays a tournament-winning tarpon in her Capitol office — leads a small convoy in a doorless Jeep Wrangler to Davis Islands. 

As its name suggests, the affluent neighborhood is surrounded by Bay waters, bordered on one side by the mouth of the Hillsborough River. A sea green shine is visible through some of the large-paned homes lining the water.

Young is joined by her political director, Nick Alvarez, and fellow state Sen. Travis Hutson, the latest cameo from the Republican-controlled upper chamber. Last week, retiring state Sen. René García accompanied Young on the trail. Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano is a frequent companion. The list goes on. 

“They do it on their own time,” Young says of her Senate colleagues. “We’re all very close.”

Alvarez, who’s fluent in Spanish, is using an app called CampaignSidekick. Fueled by Census and voter registration information, the tool allows campaigns to record information on voters at different addresses. They’ve already canvassed the area, but now Young is circling back to remind some voters to return their mail-in, or absentee, ballots. She calls it the “A-B chase.”

“It’s very targeted,” Alvarez says of the technology, but there’s room for “soft” Democrats. “If we have information that someone is an older Hispanic Democrat that may have just registered Democrat — just because, which happens — we might target them.”

Young and company are keenly aware of the district’s demographics. Twenty-eight percent of the voting age is Hispanic, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. There’s a Spanish-speaking team, and plenty of bilingual volunteers and staffers to help convey the campaign’s platform, Young says.

Alvarez points out that the Spanish speakers on staff have been invited in homes to share cafecito with voters. Young admits she isn’t fluent but knows enough to introduce herself.

Alvarez suggests Young should hit the houses with more cars in the driveway. Her average time spent at the door is much higher than the typical two-minute-long interaction shared by volunteers and staffers.

“People take a lot of time to research candidates,” Young says. “They vote for the person more than the party, and so I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my voters.”

Roughly 20 percent of doors knocked results in an answer, she notes, but it adds up in the long run. The campaign has knocked on north of 110,000 doors. By the day’s end another 1370 would be recorded, with Young personally clocking seven miles.

Those who do answer typically recognize Young immediately, sharing words of encouragement for her campaign. When a small group canvassing for Republicans at the top of the ticket stops to say hello, Young poses for a quick selfie. It’s important to run your own race, Young says, though she’s firmly backing the party’s choices for statewide offices and the U.S. Senate.

Soon afterward, two men operating a car-detailing service beckon Young over. One says he’s seen her commericals and thinks she’s the “right woman for the job.” He’s from the Bahamas and lives in Ybor. Unfortunately, that’s outside my district, Young tells him. Still, they swap business cards as he offers her good luck in the race. 

Almost every interaction is a warm welcome in Davis Islands in part because of the targeting technology, but there are outliers.

One man answers and immediately asks Young why she left the Senate chamber ahead of a vote on an assault weapons ban amendment during a rare Saturday session earlier this year. He’s referencing deliberation over the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, spawned after the Parkland school shooting in February. Young’s brief absence has served as fodder for Cruz’ campaign. 

Young, who holds a law degree from the University of Virginia, embraces the conflict. She explains to her adversary that she had a legitimate reason to leave the floor and was gone for longer than 45 minutes. She tells him she voted in favor of the complete bill — which resulted in significant changes to the state’s gun laws — and that Cruz hadn’t because the bill didn’t provide enough gun control.

Young, who during college had interned for a Democratic congressman, opts to continue to talk to the man, who identified himself as a registered Democrat, for nearly 15 minutes. It wasn’t until she attended one of former President Ronald Reagan‘s State of the Union addresses that she made the switch to Republican.

She describes the transition as “the first exercise of true political free will,” especially after growing up in Leon County in a Democratic household. (She attended high school with former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and was close friends then with Graham’s younger sister, Cissy.)

The Democrat at the door eventually warms up to Young and they begin sharing their thoughts on the issues the day. The conversation ranges from the environment to education to local tax initiatives, while the tone shifts from hostile to friendly. The exchange ends with a promise to reconsider the candidates — even an offer of water to help fend off the impending afternoon heat.

“That’s a vote that I’ll probably get,” reflects Young, smiling, as she makes her way to the next house.

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