Four important groups that traditionally vote Democratic have deserted Janet Cruz in her quest to unseat state Sen. Dana Young in Greater Tampa’s SD18.
These include the African American community, progressives, educators, and environmentalists. Cruz, a term-limited state representative, has somehow alienated them all.
The Hillsborough Democratic Progressive Caucus endorsed every other Democrat from Hillsborough County running for the Florida Legislature: Kathy Lewis, SD20; Phil Hornback, HD54; Adam Hattersly, HD 59; Debra Bellanti, HD 60, and Fentrice Driskell, HD63.
It’s payback for the term-limited Cruz’s reprehensible power play last February when she muscled progressive Bob Buesing out of the Senate race. Buesing had built an organization and war chest for months before Cruz, with the help of out-of-touch dowager Alex Sink and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Terrie Rizzo, dropped the bomb on him: They would support Cruz in any primary battle.
Another traditional Democratic bloc avoiding an endorsement of Cruz is the environmental community. In its “Pelican” newsletter, the Sierra Club of Florida recommended 23 candidates for the Florida Legislature. Among the Tampa Bay endorsements are Debra Bellanti, Fentrice Driskill, Ben Diamond, Jennifer Webb, Alex Heeren, and Lindsay Cross. No Cruz.
Of course, it was Dana Young who championed a statewide anti-fracking bill that Cruz never got on board with.
Cruz had initially filed to run for the County Commission. She disingenuously claimed she switched to the Senate race because of the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Then, during the subsequent legislative session, she ignored pleas from the parents of the shooting victims to vote “yes” on a landmark gun safety bill.
Dana Young voted for the bill, earning the enmity of the National Rifle Association. Cruz’s hypocrisy was laid bare and concerned parents of public school students are not happy with her.
Tampa Bay Beat has learned from sources in Tallahassee that Cruz, the House minority leader, attempted to force the 39-member Democratic caucus to vote “no,” but at least six legislators dug in their heels, announcing they would vote for the bill. To save face, Cruz announced caucus members should “vote their conscience.” In the end, nine Democratic House members voted for the gun safety legislation.
Michelle Williams, a key activist in Tampa’s African American community, praised Dana Young for being receptive and empathetic to the concerns of black families. During this important interview presided over by Florida You Judge, it becomes evident that Young is successfully peeling off a constituency that Cruz needs in order to have any chance of victory.
Williams criticized Cruz’s misinformation campaign: smearing Young while hiding the culpability of the Hillsborough County School District for its financial woes. The entire interview will be enlightening to anyone under the illusion that Cruz serves the black community.
To make matters worse, Cruz inexplicably touts support from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Times. To say neither are popular among African-American voters would be the understatement of this young millennium.
Cruz also alienated public school teachers, administrators and parents with her endorsement of former school board member Susan Valdes.
With eight days remaining until the primary, it was publicly disclosed that Valdes reneged on a campaign promise that she would not accept contributions from charter school organizers. Cruz withdrew the endorsement only hours after Tampa Bay Beat ran a story about Valdes’ duplicity.
No one believes Cruz was unaware of the Valdes/charter school link. While on the Hillsborough County School Board, Valdes made no secret of the fact that, unlike most Democrats, her values were in sync with the charter school movement.
Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.