Tampa voters have learned that the current midterm elections have irrefutably accentuated an important axiom: Always question the veracity of state Rep. Janet Cruz.
That even applies to her name.
The desperate Cruz, a Democrat polling behind state Sen. Dana Young in SD 18, has been hurling mud against the wall hoping something will stick. Those accustomed to Cruz’s rhetoric are attuned to her buffoonery and deception.
During a public forum last week, Cruz blamed Young for the obsolete, non-functional air conditioning systems in many Hillsborough County schools. Seriously, she did.
Observers said the inane accusation was met with eye rolling and muffled snickering.
Of course, Hillsborough County schools, financially distressed as no other county in Florida, are the responsibility of the local school board, which for years has been derelict in its budgeting. An infamous 2016 study costing $818,000 advised the Hillsborough School District how to stop wasting taxpayer money.
Now the school board has come begging to Hillsborough County voters for a half-percent sales tax increase to bail itself out of its self-made economic morass.
The financial woes of the school board go back to 2011, the year after both Cruz and Young were elected to the House for the first time. Blaming Young for deteriorating infrastructure is transparent lunacy and smacks of desperation as the campaign enters its final weeks.
Earlier in the campaign, Cruz alienated public education advocates with her announced endorsement for former school board member Susan Valdes, a proponent of charter schools. Valdez, running for Cruz’ House seat, took contributions from charter school operators in her last school board campaign in 2016, so it was no mystery to anyone where she stood on the public school/charter school issue.
Cruz’s endorsement held until it was publicly revealed that Valdes reneged on a campaign promise that she would not accept contributions in 2018 from charter school organizers. Cruz, then with much fanfare eight days before the Democratic primary, withdrew the endorsement only hours after Tampa Bay Beat ran a story about Valdes’ duplicity.
Cruz has also attempted to pass herself off as a gun control advocate, but as reported last week, she refused to vote for legislation supported by parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and opposed by the National Rifle Association. Young voted for the bill.
The ultimate hypocrisy: Cruz tells Tampa voters she was motivated to run against Young because of the February school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas where 17 students died.
Now the Name Game.
Janet Cruz was known as Janet Rifkin until she decided to run for office in a heavily Hispanic House district in 2010.
Ballotpedia, the definitive political bible, lists “Janet Cruz,” but there is no “Janet Rifkin.” District 18 has way more Cruzes than Rifkins voting. Janet (fill in the blank) is listed as “Janet Rifkin” on her Facebook page (below). When it suits an audience or her business, Cruz will hyphenate her last name. So, depending on the situation, she calls herself Cruz, Rifkin, or Cruz-Rifkin.
Cruz told the Tampa Tribune eight years ago that she was running as “Janet Cruz” in order to “avoid confusion.” Rim shot.
The Cruz campaign has been a shipwreck since it set sail. After declaring her intention to file for a Hillsborough County Commission seat, Cruz inveigled her way into the state senate race. She avoided a bruising primary by forcing construction attorney Bob Buesing, who already declared against Young, to step aside.
An attempt to reconcile with the party’s progressive element failed miserably.
The most recent SD 18 poll shows Cruz polling only 64 percent among Democrats.
Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.