Dana Young Archives - Florida Politics

7 reasons why it’s silly to count out Ron DeSantis in the Florida Governor race

Comparing politics to horse racing is common, but unlike sports, where handicappers plunk down cash on the teams they think will win, political pundits can’t and don’t “bet” on whether such-and-such politician will win their election. There is one outlet that casts aside that professional norm. And that outlet is starting to consider playing the middle.

Here are seven reasons why you shouldn’t count out DeSantis.

Donald Trump is strong, maybe at his strongest in some time — This may not move a lot of independent voters, but the fact is President Trump is on a winning streak, at least by the current standards he’s measured by. Beginning with the superficial renegotiation of NAFTA and continuing through the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and an American pastor being freed from imprisonment in Turkey, POTUS is firing on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the national economy is roaring. All of this matters in Florida because much of DeSantis’ candidacy is based on his connection to the White House. So if a Trump-in-full tells his base in the Sunshine State to turn out for DeSantis, they’re probably more inclined to do so than if Trump was mired in a slump. As goes Trump, so goes DeSantis.

The polls have stabilized for DeSantis — There has been relatively little survey work done in Florida over the past two weeks because of Hurricane Michael. The only public poll conducted since the storm struck the Panhandle is one from St. Pete Polls which shows DeSantis within one point of Gillum, while leading by three points among those who say they have already voted. Before Michael’s intrusion on the campaign, three other polls all showed the race essentially tied. The tied race is a marked improvement for DeSantis because most of the post-primary polling, including a Sept. 20-24 Quinnipiac University survey with Gillum leading DeSantis by 9 points, showed the Tallahassee Mayor with an outside-the-margin-of-error lead on his Republican opponent. We hear (but have not seen) that DeSantis’ internal polling has the former congressman up by a couple of points.

The down-ballot polls show little indication of a “Blue Wave” — Nationally, the Democrats may ride a Blue Wave into control of the U.S. House and additional governorships, but here in Florida, the polling shows little specific evidence of this phenomenon. In battleground congressional races in CD 26 and 27, the Republicans are narrowly leading or tied, while in every one of the state Senate seats Democrats are targeting, the Republicans are firmly in the lead (SD 8, SD 22) or tied (SD 18, SD 36). One of the key, but consistently underreported, reasons Republicans win in Florida is the decentralization of their political operations: Rick Scott and DeSantis have their campaigns, but the campaigns of incumbents like Sens. Keith Perry, Dana Young, Jeff Brandes, Manny Diaz, and so many of the House members are, individually, multimillion-dollar operations with massive GOTV efforts that swamp whatever the Democrats do.

Gillum did not receive a hurricane bump — The fear among Republicans was and is that Gillum would perform so well during Hurricane Michael that the gubernatorial race would all but freeze-up while the Mayor emerged from the crisis with haloed poll numbers. So far, that has not occurred. By this weekend, the race should be back at full throttle (Gillum returns to the campaign trail Friday), while the St. Pete Polls survey showed Gillum with only a +13 favorability rating on how he responded to the hurricane (compared to the two-to-one margin Scott received).

DeSantis has all the money in the world — Cue the narrator from ESPN’s “30 for 30” series … What if I told you a candidate for Florida governor raised $8 million in a week … and the political insiders still thought he couldn’t win? Well, that’s how much money DeSantis raised for his campaign and committee during the first week of October. Ten years ago, that would have been enough money for the entire general election campaign of a statewide candidate, but today, after DeSantis posted those numbers, it seemed to barely turn heads. That’s silly. While other Republican candidates throughout the country are struggling to raise coin, DeSantis has more than enough cash to go balls-to-the-wall for the final two-and-a-half weeks of the campaign. That’s part of the reason the campaign is still able to hire top operatives and consultants.

DeSantis has stopped serving the ball into the net — During the first two weeks of the general election, it seemed like DeSantis was going to double-fault his way to defeat with one unforced, racially charged error after another. And while the damage is done from those blunders, he seems to have stopped stepping on his own d*ck. Undoubtedly, this is why he’s no longer sinking in the polls and is able to raise huge sums of money. No one wanted to be next to the guy sending out racist dog whistles. It’s obvious that adding Susie Wiles and Sarah Bascom to the team cut down on the number of self-inflicted wounds.

Republicans are doing what they do during early voting — Statewide, Republicans have returned 247,530 vote-by-mail ballots to 207,171 by Democrats, 96,629 by unaffiliated voters and 3,020 by people registered with third parties. Democratic operatives will tell you that, relative to 2014, they’re in better shape now than then, but I have become highly skeptical of early balloting as a predictor. This week, the Florida Democratic Party released a memo touting a 6-point bump in Democratic returns in Sarasota County as well as smaller boosts in Charlotte and Lee counties. However, Democrats outperformed in the mail vote in Sarasota County in 2016, too, and we all remember how that turned out. For Gillum to win, he has to beat the historical trend that Republicans do better in nonpresidential years. In other words, the Democrats have to create much of the environment found in a presidential year. So far, the early balloting does not indicate that.

Admittedly, I’ve still got my PredictIt money piled behind Andrew Gillum becoming the next Governor of Florida, and most others are betting the chalk, but anyone who thinks betting on DeSantis is a surefire loss could end up looking like Eddie Mush come Election Day.

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.

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.

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.

Harry Barkett, Jeff Vinik hosting Dana Young fundraiser Tuesday

Amalie Oil Co. exec Harry Barkett and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik will help boost Republican state Sen. Dana Young’s re-election bid with a fundraising reception in Tampa this week.

The Tuesday evening event will be held at the home of Barkett and his wife, Carmen, while Vinik’s wife, Penny, is also listed on the host committee. Supporters interested in attending the event, slated to run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., can RSVP with Kristin Lamb by emailing Kristin@FLFStrategies.com or calling 850-339-5354.

Young was elected to Senate District 18 in 2016, but due to Florida courts approving new maps for the Florida Senate she and other Senators in even-numbered districts were only elected to two-year terms.

She is facing a tough challenge from House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who shelved her Hillsborough County Commission bid to enter the Senate race in mid-April. The most recent poll of the race shows Cruz with a slim advantage in the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa. Prior polls have shown the two women jockeying in the purple district.

The Florida Democratic Party sees SD 18 as one of its top targets for a flip. Other than South Florida’s SD 36, where David Perez won the Democratic primary to challenge Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz, SD 18 is the only district Democrats are after that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

Young has vastly outraised Cruz, however, and the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the PAC chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, has much deeper pockets than the equivalent fundraising arm supporting Democratic state Senate campaigns.

As of Oct. 5, Cruz had raised about $934,000 between her campaign account and affiliated political committee, Building the Bay PC, with about $115,000 of that cash banked due to a spree of media buys and contributions to the Florida Democratic Party, which has provided her campaign with a large amount of “in-kind” support.

Young has amassed $870,000 in hard money and still has $600,000 of that money in the bank. Young formed her PAC, Friends of Dana Young, well before the 2018 election cycle, but had another $600,000 in that account at the end of the early October reporting period. Like her opponent, much of her committee cash has been funneled to the FRSCC.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

Dana Young Fundraiser 10.16.2018

Dana Young

Tampa lawyer accuses Dana Young of profiting from beer bills

A Tampa lawyer filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics against Florida State Sen. Dana Young alleging she violated state law and Senate rules by supporting legislation that benefits her financially.

Milton Toro Marquez, a lawyer with Acevedo Law Firm in Tampa, alleges Young’s support for three bills deregulating the craft beer industry directly benefited the private equity firm her husband runs.

Young, a Republican, is seeking re-election to the Senate against Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz.

In his complaint dated September 29, Marquez references a Tampa Bay Times article from Sept. 21 raising the specter that the Young couple’s net worth may have drastically increased in part because of her advocacy for the craft beer industry.

“This article raises disturbing allegations regarding Sen. Dana Young and her votes for, and sponsorship of, legislation that could personally benefit her husband’s private equity firm, Mangrove Equity Partners, LP,” Marquez writes in the complaint.

That equity firm acquired in 2016 Washington-based Meheen Manufacturing, which subsequently merged with Wild Goose Canning. Both companies make craft beer bottling and canning equipment.

At issue are three bills Young either supported or sponsored in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

This year, Young sponsored Senate Bill 1020 that would expressly allow of-age consumers to order alcoholic beverages for home delivery, including craft beer.

The House version of that bill, House Bill 667, was approved and signed into law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

That bill in and of itself might not have directly benefited Young’s husband’s equity firm. Companies like Drizzly and Shipt were already providing mobile app-based alcohol home delivery service. Instead it clarified in Florida law that the practice was legal because Florida law previously did not address internet-based delivery service.

However, two other bills further support Marquez’s claim.

Young also sponsored Senate Bill 554 in 2017 that would have allowed craft breweries to move their products to unaffiliated breweries, restaurants, and retail locations without going through the typical distribution process. The bill died, but it would have made it easier and cheaper for craft breweries to sell products in other locations besides in-house tasting rooms.

Young sponsored another bill that same year, Senate Bill 166, allowing craft breweries to sell six-packs of its products in its tasting rooms. The House version of that bill was later approved and signed by the Governor.

Marquez notes in his complaint that since being elected to the Florida House in 2010, Young’s net worth increased from just over $452,000 to more than $4.6 million. The Tampa Bay Times article on the issue lists similar figures, but says her net worth in 2010 was $667,000. It also notes that her net worth increased from $2 million in May of 2013.

Marquez claims the increase in wealth stems largely from Young’s husband’s business and joint investments. He says Young’s support for these bills violates Florida Statutes Chapter 112.311. That statute bars lawmakers from having “any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect … which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties in the public interest.”

Marquez also sites Senate rules that state “a Senator may not vote on any matter that the Senator knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of the Senator. The Senator must disclose the nature of the interest in the matter from which the Senator is required to abstain,” and further claims that at no time did Young disclose her conflicts.

The complaint calls for an immediate investigation.

Young patently disagrees the measures constitute a conflict. She acknowledges her husband is affiliated with those companies, which are based in Colorado, but to say the legislation helps him profit is a stretch, at best.

“This complaint is complete and total nonsense,” said Sara Bascom, spokesperson for Young’s campaign. “This is an attack on Senator Young’s family and a shameful attempt to try to drag Dana Young’s family into Janet Cruz’s dirty campaign.”

Further, Young’s campaign claims the complaint is a retaliatory attempt to take attention away from another ethics complaint filed against Cruz. That complaint alleges Cruz failed to disclose her rental property as a liability on her financial disclosure form. Cruz rents a home in the Florida House District 62 she currently represents for $1,150 a month. Elected officials are supposed to disclose liabilities in excess of $1,000.

A Hillsborough County resident filed the complaint after a Florida Politics report in which Cruz provided bank statements showing she paid rent at that home. The story centered on questions about whether or not Cruz actually lived there or in another home owned by her husband outside the district.

Ethics complaints filed with the state, if taken up, are arduous and often don’t have resolution until after an elected official leaves office or is elected. Even in cases where an elected official is found in violation of a rule, that person might only be fined for the indiscretion.

Cruz’s campaign declined to comment on the ethics violation levied against Young. 

New PPP survey shows Janet Cruz with 3-point lead over Dana Young

A new poll shows Democrat Janet Cruz defeating Republican incumbent state Sen. Dana Young in a Tampa Bay district that historically leans right.

A Public Policy Polling survey of voters in state Senate District 18 shows Cruz winning 42 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent who favor Young.

Partisanship in the district plays heavily in Cruz’s favor, according to PPP.

The poll found half of voters would vote Democrat in state senate races without specifying the candidates, while only 39 percent of voters said they would vote for the Republican. The poll found respondents had a 54 percent disapproval rating for President Donald Trump’s job performance with a 43 percent approval rating for the Republican leader.

But the negative tone of the race takes a toll on both candidates, who hold low favorability ratings in the survey. Cruz holds a 29 percent unfavorable from respondents with a 26 percent favorability rating. Young’s favorability is 28 percent with a 32 percent unfavorable rating.

Voters show enthusiasm to weigh in at the polls. According to the poll, 68 percent of respondents indicate being “very excited” to vote in this November’s mid-term election. Only 14 percent said they weren’t that excited while 14 percent said they weren’t sure.

Young in 2016 won this district with 48 percent of the vote to Democrat Bob Buesing’s 41 percent, with independent Joe Redner, a prominent strip club owner in Tampa, pulling in almost 10 percent of the vote.

But district in many ways already showed problems for Republicans then. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the district with 51 percent of the vote to Trump’s 45 percent, even as Trump went on to win Florida statewide.

Clinton voters made up 49 percent of those surveyed in the PPP poll, with Trump voters making up 43 percent.

Trump remains underwater in terms of voter approval within the district. Some 54 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the president’s job performance, and just 43 percent approve.

The sample included women as 53 percent of respondents and men 47 percent.

That said, PPP is a Democratic polling outlet, and there’s some reason for skepticism. Democrats make up 41 percent of the poll sample and Republicans make up just 38 percent, but Republicans had a 1-percentage point edge in turnout in 2016 within the district and 6-percent advantage in 2014, a solid Republican year.

poll results – sd18

Janet Cruz TV ad

Bob Buckhorn stars in Janet Cruz TV ad

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is the center of the latest Janet Cruz television ad that will be featured on broadcast and cable channels throughout the coming weeks.

The ad launched Tuesday. It shows the two-term mayor in black and white, standing in a bare room.

My friend Janet Cruz embodies what it means to be a Tampanian. And as a daughter of immigrants, she has spent every day enhancing their legacy,” Buckhorn says.

The 30-second spot goes on to describe a candidate who “will make sure our public schools are fully-funded, and without mold and crumbling infrastructure.”

The Cruz campaign claims her opponent, incumbent Republican Dana Young, voted on or otherwise supported $1.3 billion in cuts to public education throughout her tenure in the legislature.

Young is running to keep her Senate District 18 seat. She previously served two terms in the Florida House.

The Young campaign rejects Cruz’s consistent attacks on her voting record as it relates to public education. Young defends her record supporting school choice, like voucher programs and charter schools.

Democrats like Cruz argue those programs siphon money out of traditional schools, and amount to cuts to public education.

Voucher programs use tax credits to fund scholarships to private schools for low-income students who can’t get into quality public schools. Charter schools are publicly funded, but privately operated.

“This election gives Hillsborough families the opportunity to right so many wrongs caused by Young’s reckless votes and once again put our community ahead of the special interests and well-connected insiders,” Cruz said.

Buckhorn’s mention of mold in schools is a nod to Plant High School, where the aging building’s air conditioning is not properly functioning and has resulted in mold.

The Hillsborough County School District recently approved a one-half percent sales tax referendum for the November ballot to fund repairs like those necessary at Plant High.

The Cruz and Young matchup is one of the most hotly contested in the state. Recent polls have the two in a neck and neck battle for the Senate District 18 race in Tampa.

Cruz currently represents House District 62 seat in Tampa. Former Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes will replace Cruz in that seat.

Valdes defeated Mike Alvarez in the Democratic primary in August. There were no Republican challengers in that race for the heavily Democratic and Hispanic district covering west Tampa.

Dana Young hosting Tally fundraiser tonight for SD 18 re-election

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is holding a fundraiser for her Senate District 18 re-election campaign Tuesday, Oct. 2 in Tallahassee.

The event will run from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the BC Room of the Governors Club, 202 South Adams St. Those looking for more information or to RSVP can contact Kristin Lamb via Kristin@FLFStrategies.com or 850-339-5354.

Young was elected to Senate District 18 in 2016, but due to the shakeup caused by redistricting she and other state Senators in even-numbered districts must run for re-election after only two years.

She is facing a tough challenge from House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who entered the race in mid-April. The most recent poll of the race shows Cruz with a slim advantage in the northwestern Hillsborough district, which covers much of Tampa.

SD 18 sits atop the Florida Democratic Party’s wish list this fall. Other than South Florida’s SD 36, where David Perez won the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Manny Diaz on Tuesday night, SD 18 is the only district Democrats are after that voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

Young has landed several endorsements, most recently from the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and she’s already started revving up her ground game with canvassing drives. But her biggest advantage this cycle is in the money race.

As of Aug. 23, Young had more than $455,000 banked in her campaign account at the last reporting checkpoint. Her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, has about $1.27 million at the ready.

By comparison, Cruz had $189,000 in hard money and another $330,000 in her political committee, Building the Bay PC, through the same date.

Late last month, Young challenged Cruz to two debates ahead of their general election showdown. After poking Young for being down in the polls, spokesperson Kevin Cate said the Cruz campaign would reach out to the debate organizers and that the campaign was “eager to debate expanding access to affordable care, more funding for schools, and common-sense gun reform.”

Election Day is Nov. 6. Young’s fundraiser invitation is below.

Young Fundraiser 10.2.2018

Is this not my beautiful house? Questions linger on Janet Cruz residency

Critics of state Rep. Janet Cruz are accusing the longtime lawmaker of not living in the urban Tampa district she represents.

An anonymous tipster claiming not to oppose Cruz’s bid for state Senate raised the question in an email pointing to Cruz’s husband, Stephen Rifkin, who owns a waterfront mansion in a different House district — one currently held by Jackie Toledo.

Cruz, the outgoing House Democratic Leader, is running against Republican Sen. Dana Young in Senate District 18, which encompasses both of Cruz’s properties and her husband’s.

An analysis of property records, as well as Cruz’s marriage records and past comments to the media, gives credence to suspicions about where she lays her head at night.

Records show Cruz owns two homes, both in Toledo’s South Tampa HD 60. One is located at 4114 W. Empedrado St., the other at 4428 W. Wisconsin Ave. Cruz’s husband owns another home in HD 60, at 5035 W. San Miguel St.

Cruz and Rifkin were married in 2003.

Despite her husband owning a luxury waterfront home, Cruz lists her address as 4816 N. Fremont Ave in Tampa, within the boundaries of HD 62, which she currently represents.

As proof she lives at that address, Cruz’s campaign provided several documents.

The lawmaker’s Florida driver’s license lists the Fremont address as her home and several bills including a Tampa utility bill, Dillard’s credit card, Home Depot credit card and an insurance statement from Five Brothers Insurance Agency. Cruz is also registered to vote at the Fremont address.

Cruz’s campaign also provided bank statements showing she pays $1,150 in monthly rent at the Fremont home.

“Rep. Cruz resides in the district at the address … where she has been a staunch fighter for Hillsborough’s public schools, a leader in promoting real job opportunities through her annual Job Fair and a strong advocate for her constituents,” said Cruz campaign manager Tim Wagner.

“There is no question that the latest false attacks on Cruz are being fueled by Young and her campaign given the recent revelations reporting (that) Senator Dana Young has profited from her legislative actions and votes.”

Cruz recently accused Young of profiting from her votes on the craft beer industry noting her husband has financial interests in that business, claims Young denies.

While the documentation provided by Cruz’s campaign is more than enough documentation to establish residency, other records raise questions.

Property records for Cruz’s Empedrado Street property list her mailing address as her husband’s home on San Miguel and a car registration for a 2016 BMW 328 also lists the San Miguel residence as her mailing address.

“This is just further example of the dishonesty of Janet Cruz,” Young campaign spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said. “If she has been knowingly not living in her House district, how she can expect her community to send her to the Senate?”

This isn’t the first time Cruz has landed in hot water related to real estate. Earlier this year, she repaid $32,000 (plus fees and penalties) to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser for claiming two homestead tax exemptions.

Last week, during a Tiger Bay Club of Tampa event with Young, Cruz called it “an oversight” that was corrected as soon as it was brought to her attention. She said the attacks amounted to little more than dirty politics aimed at drawing attention away from her track record in the House.

“Dana should spend less time attacking Janet Cruz and more time explaining to parents why their children are forced to sit in hot classrooms without (air conditioning), due to her continued votes to slash public school funding,” Wagner said. “These false attacks on Janet Cruz are nothing but another attempt by Dana Young to hide from her atrocious voting record.”

Cruz’s battle with Young is considered one of the most significant in the nation, as Democrats look to seize on a so-called “blue wave” unseating conservatives in state and federal races. 

During last week’s Tiger Bay appearance, both candidates fiercely debated each other’s records — Cruz blasting Young for being pro-gun and anti-education.

Young fired back, saying it was Cruz who failed to protect student safety by voting against the now-enacted school safety bill increasing money for school security and raising the age people could purchase certain firearms from 18 to 21. Cruz voted against the bill because it did not include a ban on assault weapons, she said, a priority for many Democrats.

Latest polling puts three points ahead of Cruz, falling well within the margin of error.

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