Janet Cruz-Rifkin gets busy as Hillsborough House seat opens

As we reported yesterday, Hillsborough area Democratic House Representative Mike Scionti is leaving his seat at the end of this week, to take over as a deputy assistant Secretary in the Defense Department.

We also reported in the same post some of the names being bandied about to run to replace Scionti, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran who has served in both  Iraq and Afghanistan since those conflicts began earlier this decade.

Wasting no time in locking down key endorsements was South Tampa Democratic Party fundraiser and activist Janet Cruz-Rifkin, who within hours of Scionti's announcement provided a list of some of top Democrats in the area who had already endorsed her.  When asked last night if she had any inside information about Scionti's new move, she replied  "I know a lot of people.  And I haven’t asked anybody for anything , but I did get on the telephone and say, “look this morning, this is going to happen ..I need you to commit to me, if you believe in me. "

In Cruz-Rifkin's own words, it spoke volumes that in just a few hours that she had procured endorsements from top local Dems such as  Congresswoman Kathy Castor, former Congressman Jim Davis, CFO and gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, and former Tampa Mayors Dick Greco and Sandy Freedman.

Cl spoke to Cruz-Rifkin last night from the home she currently shares with husband, Dr. Stephen Rifkin.  The couple hosted a fundraiser for Attorney General candidate Dave Aronberg.  Their beautiful house has been the site of many fundraisers over the years in South Tampa, but it's not in the decidedly more working class District 58, which includes West Tampa, Seminole Heights and the Town N Country part of Hllsborough County.

She said last night, "When I win, and I intend to win, then I have to move."

She said that to her, District 58 is a "culture,  it’s an ethnicity , it’s the people that I my service and work with.  When I walked neighborhoods for Lawton Chiles many years ago, I walked with Mike Scionti Sr. , Buddy McKay, it was the streets of West Tampa that we walked.  I’ve never been, far from West Tampa it’s my core."

She emphasized her roots in Tampa go back generations, and has had a grandmother who until recently lived on the same street in West Tampa for 44 years.  "For 30 years  I’ve worked in the West Tampa community and asked for nothing , I have worked, supported, been a good neighbor, so today is my day, today is the day I ask for their support."

CL also engaged Cruz-Rifkin on some of the issues that she would be dealing with if she were to win a special election for the House seat, which is expected to take place sometime early next year.  She said if elected, she would put an emphasis on trying to bring jobs to District 58.  On rail, she said that stories regarding SunRail in Orlando concerned her, and she was worried  about the "fleecing of Tampanians" regarding the proposal for light rail in Hillsborough County.  She said, " rail is something that everybody wants, but nobody wants to pay for." 

Janet Cruz-Rifkin is the mother of Anna Cruz, a local Democratic political strategist.

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