TAMPA — Democrat Bob Buesing announced Tuesday night that he'll withdraw from the state Senate District 18 race against Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.
He encouraged his supporters and donors to back Rep. Janet Cruz, another Tampa Democrat, who announced last week she would enter the race and challenge Young.
Buesing made his announcement to the South Tampa Democratic Club.
He told the Tampa Bay Times that his goal is to replace Young as the senator from the Tampa district, and that "it is essential that the Democrats unify behind a single Democratic candidate to give us the best chance."
Buesing said he would refund at least 80 percent of the $115,924 in donations he's received and encourage those donors to give the money to Cruz "or any of the wonderful Democratic candidates we have in the cycle."
He said his goal is "to remove Dana Young from office. She's anti-public education, she's endorsed Donald Trump, and she's a (National Rifle Association) A-rated supporter, she's got a zero percent Planned Parenthood score. She is a complete mismatch for this moderately progressive community in which we live."
The District 18 seat is considered one of the Democratic Party's best chances in Florida to flip a state Senate seat from Republican to Democratic hands.
Buesing lost to Young in 2016, and Cruz initially rejected entreaties from the party to run this year. Instead, she filed for what's expected to be an open Hillsborough County Commission seat.
But following rumors that the county seat might not come open, she announced last week that she would run against Young instead. Buesing's departure from the race averts a Democratic primary that would have weakened the nominee greatly in the general election showdown with Young.