After election loss, Janet Cruz says she's running for Lynn Hurtak's Tampa City Council seat

She has plans to file paperwork Wednesday afternoon.

click to enlarge Outgoing Florida Senator Janet Cruz (L) has plans to run for Tampa City Council against first-term councilwoman Lynn Hurtak (R). - Photos c/o Mercury and City of Tampa
Photos c/o Mercury and City of Tampa
Outgoing Florida Senator Janet Cruz (L) has plans to run for Tampa City Council against first-term councilwoman Lynn Hurtak (R).
This morning, less than two weeks after losing her seat in the Florida Senate, Janet Cruz announced plans to run for the Tampa City Council seat currently occupied by Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak.

Cruz planned to share her intention to challenge the popular first-term councilwoman in the latest edition of La Gaceta. A spokesperson for Cruz confirmed the news, adding that the outgoing senator intends to file paperwork this afternoon.

Cruz's spokesperson told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that after the senator's loss to Jay Collins, people quickly began urging her to continue public service.

Tampa’s upcoming municipal election—when voters will decide on city council members and whether or not to keep Jane Castor in office—are set for March 7, 2023.

The news arrives as Hurtak is in Denmark on city business alongside Tampa’s Sustainability & Resilience Officer Whit Remer. The duo was sent on the trip by the mayor so that they could learn more about Copenhagen’s Biogas food waste to energy plants.

Hurtak has plans to return late Thursday night according to her legislative aide, and was unavailable to comment.

In a Wednesday morning Twitter post from Denmark, Hurtak thanked the mayor for sending her on the trip, and officially announced her intent to stay in the D3 seat, after filing to run on Halloween.

Hurtak was named to her seat in April, after the unceremonious ouster of Councilman John Dingfelder.

“[Sustainability is] just one of the things I'm proud to have worked on in my seven months on Tampa City Council. Affordable housing, transit, better communication between city and neighborhoods, and protecting women and doctors from being persecuted for health care decisions are some of the others,” Hurtak said. “But from talking with you all and reading every one of your emails, I've learned that we can do so much more together to make Tampa a safer, more prosperous, more sustainable and more inclusive city… I'm proud of what we've accomplished together. With your help we can satisfy Tampa's full potential.”

Hurtak’s campaign told CL that it is having a launch event at the American Legion Seminole Post 111 in Seminole Heights next Tuesday, Nov. 22 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Despite two other open city-wide council seats occupied by Joseph Citro and Charlie Miranda, Cruz picked District 3, where Hurtak has served for just seven months.

Cruz’s entrance into Tampa's 2023 municipal election pits her against the only woman on Tampa City Council, and places her in a contest that already has two other female candidates: Gwendolyn Henderson and Sonja P. Brookins.

"Senator Cruz is running for this seat because it's an open seat and believes voters should be able to choose their elected leaders and looks forward to engaging Tampa voters and, if so lucky, once again serving the residents of this great city," Cruz's spokesperson added.

In a statement to CL, Sen. Cruz added, “Whether it’s working on housing affordability, transportation options, workforce development, or ensuring our great city is sustainable and resilient for future generations, I will never stop fighting for the hardworking people and families of our community. When elected, I plan to put community priorities ahead of politics because divisiveness has no place in City Hall.”

Cruz's spokesperson did not say whether or not Hurtak contributed to the divisiveness, and instead replied, "you haven't seen council over the last two years?"

In city hall, the last year alone has been marked conflicts and “unprecedented” friction between the mayor and city councilmembers, with some council members butting heads with Castor's administration over a myriad of things from the mysterious approval of a more than $100 million contract for Tampa's Hanna City Center, to rent control, subpoena power for a citizens police review board, and even more protections for councilmembers when they are sued.

While Hurtak has stood alongside the mayor, like during the launch of the city’s housing hotline, she has also voted against the mayor on other issues relating to affordable housing and more recently letting voters decide on subpoena power for a citizens police review board.

Sen. Cruz is the mother of Ana Cruz, the partner of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. On her Twitter, Ana Cruz calls herself "Tampa's 1st Lady."

Some might even see a conflict of interest if Cruz wins the council seat and has to act as a check on the power of a mayor who’s previously clashed with city council.

“Absolutely not,” Cruz’s spokesperson added, “there is a delineation of power for a reason and frankly, it's an insult to insinuate that someone with such a proven track record of delivering for her constituents would embark on this race if there was any conflict at all.”

Despite being involved in two Department of Justice investigations, Mayor Castor is a clear favorite to win re-election against two challengers, Jeff Godsell and Belinda Noah.

Castor and Cruz winning their elections would create a seemingly unprecedented situation in Tampeño politics where a mayor serves while her de-facto mother-in-law sits on Tampa City Council.

What’s more is that the City of Tampa Charter (10.01, section 4) says that “should a vacancy occur in the office of mayor, within fifteen (15) months or less of the term remaining the chairperson of the city council shall be mayor until the expiration of such mayor's term.”

Should Cruz win her race, she hypothetically could be named Council Chair in May. (Although it’s more likely that Guido Maniscalco, who’s running for council’s District 2 seat, would be named chair.)

It’s safe to assume that Castor would finish out her four-year term, but she could also very well be tapped for a job in the Biden administration (she’s been at the White House a lot), decide to get into lobbying, buy a sports team or even run for governor.

That’s what happened to Tampa’s first woman mayor, Sandy Freedman, who served as Council Chair from 1983-1986. When then-mayor Bob Martinez decided to run for governor, Freedman took over the remainder of his term, and then earned the vote two more times, serving as the leader of Tampa from 1987-1995.

And if Cruz does have any aspiration to be Tampa's mayor one day, winning this city-wide race is certainly a good step.

Asked about the possibility of being named council chair and perhaps ending up mayor, Cruz’s spokesperson told CL, “These are all hypothetical questions and [we’ll] need to win the race first.”

The mayor did not yet respond to a request for comment, but we'll update this post if she does.

UPDATED
11/16/22 3:35 p.m. Updated with comments from an exchange with a spokesperson for outgoing Sen. Janet Cruz.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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