Sunday one-on-one: Democratic State Senator Janet Cruz discusses run for Hillsborough County Commission

TAMPA, Fla. – It may be one year until the primary but that’s not stopping candidates from getting their message out.

Late last month, we introduced you to Aakash Patel, a millennial businessman and political newcomer. He’s the only Republican in the race so far for Hillsborough County Commision, District 1.

This week, we spoke one-on-one with Democratic State Senator Janet Cruz, a well-known figure in the Tampa Bay area’s political circles, who has thrown her hat into the ring for the job.

It will be the only commission race in 2018 with no incumbent running since Sandy Murman decided to run for the countywide seat

Political analysts say there’s no question that the race for the primary for the District 1 seat is already beginning to heat up.

“You know I’m a native Tampanian,” Rep. Cruz told News Channel 8. “I was born in Ybor City. So were my parents.”

After representing two districts in the Bay area for the last seven years (and soon to be eight), Cruz is ready to move on.

“People know me as a workhorse and not a show horse and that’s what they’ll see,” Rep. Cruz said.

Last week, she returned from the battered island of Puerto Rico after seeing the devastation and destruction firsthand.

“These people are in survival mode and it was heartbreaking to watch,” she told News Channel 8.

Also heartbreaking for Cruz, she says, were President Trump’s comments that the island nation “threw the budget out of wack.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” Cruz said when referring to some of the President’s comments. “This is about humanitarian efforts. This is about saving lives and children. I saw humans. I saw Americans. I saw them suffering and begging for water.”

Watching the devastation in Puerto Rico has left many locals wondering if the Tampa Bay area would be ready for a direct hit.

“I’ve never seen a Cat 5 hurricane head in our direction,” said Cruz who reminded us she’s lived here all her life. “It’s very scary and it’s something we can’t ignore and we have to prepare for.”

As far as preparing for a potential new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, she stands behind a move to Hillsborough County, yet questions who will pay for it and says taxpayers shouldn’t bear the brunt.

“But we’re cautious,” she said. “We’re cautious about our spending and this is yet another area to be cautious.”

As of right now, Cruz will face Patel and Juan Rivera who has no party affiliation.

Political analysts say that it’s important to keep in mind that there’s plenty of time for other candidates to jump into the fray.

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