Former teen mom and small business owner looks to flip one of Florida's most competitive State Senate seats
State Representative Janet Cruz, the outgoing House Minority Leader, is running to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Young in one of the most hotly-contested State Senate races in Florida. In mid-August, Cruz called out Young over the latter's consistent refusal to support increased funding for public education in the state, saying in a Facebook video, "Dammit Dana, it's not about politics. It's about our children."
Cruz's personal story is a testament to hard work and determination. Cruz gave birth to her first child at the age of 16 (she is a mother of four children), but went on to secure an associates degree in Opticianry from Hillsborough Community College. She now owns and operates Pearle Vision Centers in the Tampa Bay area.
According to a public poll released in early July, Cruz holds a narrow one-point lead over the Republican incumbent.
State Senate (New District in 2016)
Stretching from South Tampa to northwest Hillsborough, Senate District 18 is one of two Florida State Senate districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
All 40 state Senate seats in Florida were up for election in 2016 following a court-ordered redrawing of the legislative boundaries; the League of Women Voters of Florida successfully challenged the initial district maps by arguing that they had been unfairly gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. Florida is one of 26 states with a Republican trifecta in state government (control of both chambers of the state legislature and the Governor's office), which it has held since 1998.