Cruz hosts 'Cafe con Janet'
Janet Cruz, a Democratic candidate in the special election for the District 58 state House seat, this morning hosted "Cafe con Janet" at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop. (Among those who stopped by for their caffeine fix and to support Cruz was former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman.) The shop is a popular gathering spot in the largely Latin neighborhood.
Much has been made about whether the District 58 seat should go to someone of Latin descent, with the hubbub started by La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga, who is also a political consultant. Democratic candidate Gil Sanchez has jumped on the issue as well, but with a slightly different approach, emphasizing that he's the only Democratic candidate in the race fluent in both Spanish and English. "There's this whole stupid fight about last names being Hispanic," said Sanchez adviser Evelyn Perez-Verdia. "What matters is if the person can identity with the constituents. The fact that Gil can speak both languages is important."
This morning at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, Cruz supporter Melinda Menendez said she wants to be represented by someone Hispanic. "We need more representation by Latin people, and female at that." But Joe Petralia, who is not familiar with any of the candidates, said ethnicity doesn't matter. "The person who's best qualified should be the one that we're pulling for," he said. "Favoritism doesn't work in politics."
Cruz and Sanchez will face Pat Kemp in the Democratic primary on Jan. 26.
Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer