Inconsistencies dogging the Janet Cruz campaign for Florida Senate not only include key political issues but more fundamental representations, such as her name and address.
Cruz, a term-limited state representative, is challenging state Sen. Dana Young in Senate District,18.
Reciting one’s name and address is basic for most of us, starting in pre-K. But Cruz, age 62, has difficulty conveying a consistent response on both those fronts.
Which address is precisely her rental property or her true domicile, and at which address Cruz files for homestead exemption lies at the heart of her campaign’s most recent controversy.
Cruz claimed multiple homestead exemptions from 2004 through 2008, leading the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser to place a $32,000 lien for back taxes on an Empedrado Street home she purchased in 1983. That’s because Cruz had been living in a San Miguel Street home owned by her husband, while her then-29-year-old son was living in the Empedrado Street home.
The worst part: Cruz voted against a 2017 bill to increase the homestead exemption for all Floridians.
When Cruz first ran for the House in 2010, she dropped the name “Janet Rifkin,” her married name and the name she was known as. She explained she would run as “Janet Cruz” in the heavily Hispanic district “to avoid confusion.”
Such inconsistencies also match the Cruz legislative record and rhetoric.
She filed to run for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission, then changed her mind in February and decided to take on Young.
Publicly, Cruz said she was motivated to switch races because of the massacre of 17 students in Broward County.
But when comprehensive gun control legislation came before the Florida Legislature, Cruz voted against it. The National Rifle Association opposed the bill and parents of the murder victims lobbied for it.
Young, who voted in favor, incurred the wrath of the NRA who, moments after the bill became law, filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Florida.
Then Cruz tried to sell herself as a friend of education. Debunking that claim was her open support of Susan Valdes, a former school board member who championed charter schools.
When announcing she would run for Cruz’s open House seat, Valdes vowed not to accept campaign contributions from charter school interests. But Valdes reneged and, after it was reported by Tampa Bay Beat, Cruz rescinded her endorsement.
That was only eight days before the primary, after many mail ballots were submitted and early voting had begun. Valdes prevailed, much to the consternation of public school educators.
When Valdes ran for re-election to the school board in 2016, she accepted contributions from charter school interests. So it should have been no surprise to anyone, including Cruz, where her sympathies are.
With her poll numbers plummeting, Cruz recently blamed Young for the inadequate air conditioning in Hillsborough County schools. However, a 2016 study costing $818,000 advised the Hillsborough School District how to stop wasting taxpayer monies.
A whirlwind of confusion and contradiction surrounds Cruz. With only five weeks until the election, her only consistency is inconsistency.
Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.