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Hillsborough Progressives Reject Janet Cruz

October 13, 2018 - 6:00am
Bob Buesing, Janet Cruz and Susan Valdes
Bob Buesing, Janet Cruz and Susan Valdes

When the Democratic Progressive Caucus issued its endorsements this week, one prominent name was omitted: Janet Cruz.

Call it payback for the term-limited Cruz’s reprehensible power play last February when she muscled progressive Bob Buesing out of the race to challenge Republican State Sen. Dana Young.

The caucus has 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.

This most recent gut punch to the Cruz campaign culminates her fruitless quest to regain the trust of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. 

A prominent local progressive told Tampa Bay Beat, “I am looking for a good reason to vote for Cruz. I can’t find one.”

Cruz unsuccessfully attempted to mend fences with the progressives she shafted. A so-called “unity” event at a local bistro immediately after her coup drew 40 people, mostly Cruz’s friends and campaign entourage plus a couple of media representatives.

The anemic turnout was embarrassing. Buesing attended, but a notable absentee was his wife, Karen Buesing. 

Prior to Cruz’s heavy handedness, Bob Buesing had already raised an ample war chest and hit the campaign trail, salivating over a promising rematch. Progressives were ignited.

Not any more. They have decided not to reward treachery.

At the outset of the Young-Cruz race, it was considered by the Florida Democratic Party as a flippable seat. That possibility is now considered a long shot by most independent observers.

In addition to alienating an important faction of the Democratic party, the Cruz campaign has been haunted by the chasm between her actions and rhetoric.

Cruz says she is a friend of public education but she openly supported of Susan Valdes, a former school board member who championed charter schools.

Valdes, seeking to succeed Cruz in the House, vowed not to accept campaign contributions from charter school interests. After it was reported by Tampa Bay Beat that she reneged, Cruz rescinded her endorsement.

But Valdes’ sympathies were no secret. 

When she ran for re-election to the school board in 2016, she accepted contributions from charter school interests. 

Cruz told the press that the massacre of 17 students in Broward County motivated her State Senate run. 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. Dana Young voted for the gun bill which passed.

Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.

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