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Janet Cruz to challenge Dana Young for Tampa State Senate seat

The Democratic Florida House minority leader just made an announcement that could shake up Tampa Bay politics.

Janet Cruz wants Dana Young's Florida Senate seat.

The termed-out House minority leader announced in a press release Tuesday she hopes to take on the Tampa Republican in a bid for the District 18 seat.

"I'm running because Tampa Bay families deserve a leader who will fight for them in Tallahassee — not sell them out to big donors," Cruz said in the release.

Cruz will have to get through a tough primary before she can face Young. Many state Democrats see Young's seat as a winnable one, which means the primary between Cruz — who initially filed to run for a Hillsborough County Commission seat — and Bob Buesing, the Democrat who challenged Young in 2016, could be bloody.

In what already promises to be an expensive general election fight, some in the party are worried that Cruz's entry into the race could handicap the eventual Democratic nominee.

Read more: Janet Cruz is thinking about running for Florida Senate. Here's why some Democrats aren't celebrating.

But Cruz mostly targeted Republicans in the release announcing her candidacy.

"I love our community and I am fed up with lawmakers who put the interests of the NRA, the for-profit school industry, and insurance companies before the people they represent," Cruz said.

Cruz did not mention Young by name, her her spokesman, Kevin Cate, did.

"Democratic victories in Florida special elections have signaled major opportunities for Democrats in swing districts like Senate District 18 where far-right Republicans like Dana Young have been summarily rejected by the electorate," Cate wrote in the release.

District 18, which stretches from South Tampa to northwest Hillsborough, is one of two GOP-held districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016

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Read Cruz's whole release here:

Tampa, Fla. — House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz today filed to run for Senate District 18, promising to put the people of Tampa ahead of the big special interests who control Tallahassee. Cruz has a strong record of fighting for working families throughout her life and in a year of unprecedented Democratic energy, she is running as a champion for public education, quality affordable health care, and an economy that works for everyone.

"I'm running because Tampa Bay families deserve a leader who will fight for them in Tallahassee — not sell them out to big donors. Our teachers, nurses, moms, dads, small business owners and working families are the backbone of our community and they deserve a State Senator who will always put them first," said Representative Cruz.

"I love our community and I am fed up with lawmakers who put the interests of the NRA, the for-profit school industry, and insurance companies before the people they represent. Under Republican leadership, this Legislature has continuously underfunded our public schools, focused on creating low wage jobs that leave working families in a cycle of poverty, and given away millions of taxpayer dollars to insurance companies while health insurance costs for working families skyrocket."

"Florida deserves better. I'm proud of my record of standing against disastrous policies that have led to our children feeling unsafe in their schools and an economy that only works for the very wealthy — leaving more and more Floridians behind. I have voted again and again to fully fund public education, keep housing costs low, and protect our access to clean air and water."

"The Floridians who have been making their voices heard across our state, from the Women's March to the incredible students from Parkland, deserve true allies in their elected officials and I will proudly carry their fight with me back to Tallahassee."

Janet Cruz is a fourth generation Tampa native born in Ybor city, descending from Spanish and Italian immigrants who came to Tampa to work in the cigar factories. As a State Representative, Leader Cruz has been a successful champion for Floridians leading the passage of legislation that has had significant benefits for Tampa residents.

Democratic victories in Florida special elections have signaled major opportunities for Democrats in swing districts like Senate District 18 where far-right Republicans like Dana Young have been summarily rejected by the electorate.

Times correspondent William March contributed reporting.

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