Janet Cruz apparent winner in Florida’s most expensively fought state Senate seat, flipping it from red to blue

Janet Cruz
Janet Cruz

With the hand recount completed in the Hillsborough County Senate District 18 contest, former Democratic Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is declaring herself the winner in her hard-fought battle against Republican incumbent Dana Young.

With only overseas and military ballots yet to be counted, Cruz leads Young by 376 votes, a margin of .17%.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer tells the Tampa Bay Times that he doesn’t believe those added ballots will be enough to change the outcome.

“I am eager to start the work ahead in the state Senate,” Cruz said in a statement.

The race was one of five state Senate seats that Democrats had hoped to flip from red to blue to try to accomplish something they haven’t had in more than two decades in Tallahassee – control of one branch of the Florida Legislature.

It didn’t work out that way, however, with Cruz’s narrow-thin margin victory being the sole race the Democrats captured. Going into the election, Republicans controlled 23 of the 40 state Senate seats. After the election, the state Senate has 23 Republicans
and 17 Democrats.

The Cruz-Young contest was the most expensive state Senate race this election cycle in Florida, with Republican Young taking in nearly three times as many financial contributions as Democrat Cruz. Young spent more than $4.4 million between her regular campaign account and political committee, while Cruz spent more than $1.5 million between her two accounts.

Both women have represented parts of Tampa since 2010.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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